Tom Tom Magazine Issue 25: Health

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VIP Jade Thacker

TECH WRITER Vanessa Dominique

ILLUSTRATOR Jenny Mörtsell


WEB MANAGER Maura Filoromo SHOP TOM TOM Susan Taylor ( WEB CODERS andwhat NYC DISTRO Segrid Barr BRAIN TRUST Caryn Havlik, Kiran Gandhi, Rony Abovitz, Candace Hansen, Lisa Schonberg, James Mitchell BARCELONA GUAPA Shaina Joy Machlus EUROPEAN DISTRO Max Markowsky PORTLAND DISTRO Shanna Doolittle LA DISTRO Adrian Tenney INTERNS Sophie Zambrano, Christine Pallon WRITERS Shaina Joy Machlus, Rebecca DeRosa, Liz Tracy, Mindy Abovitz, Kelli Rae Tubbs, Lisa Schonberg, John Carlow, Emi Kariya, Lucy Katz, Sabrina Chap, Heather Wagner, Aly Michael, Candace Hansen, Anastasia Smith




PHOTOGRAPHERS Melissa Melvin Rodriguez, Alex Bonney, Xeno, Stefano Galli, Finding Charlotte Photography, Anastasia Smith ILLUSTRATORS Aidan Koch, Charlotte Louise, Jenny Mortsell, Heather Wagner,, James Douglas Mitchell, Rachal Duggan, Montana Kitching TECH WRITERS Vanessa Dominique, Kellie Rae Tubbs, Janet (f*ckin) Weiss, JoVia Armstrong MUSIC & MEDIA REVIEWS Lia Braswell, Caryn Havlik, Rebecca DeRosa, Anna Blumenthal, Gabrielle Steib, Matthew D’Abate, Mindy Abovitz, Tarra Thiessen, Attia Taylor, Lola Johnson, Chantal-Marie Wright, Svetlana Chirkova GEAR REVIEWS Rosana Caban, Lola Blu, Kellie Rae Tubbs CROSSWORD Candace Hansen CORRECTIONS FROM ISSUE 24 We are so sorry we misprinted Mal Blum’s pronoun in our last issue’s album reviews. They prefer singular they pronouns or simply Mal Blum. MERCI BEAUCOUP All of you, Ima, Chris J Monk, Geezush, Nava, Shamai, Rony, E.B., Aba, Saba, Savtah, Fievel, Marisa Kurk, Sigmund, Eli, Rico, Colin, Gia, Chris Bouza, Jhedi, Loren DiBlasi, Ankita, Nar, Alicia Boone, Lauren Zelaya, Brooklyn Museum, Dan Bindshedler, Nick Gordon, Britta, Dio, Dominika, all the #oralhistoryoffemaledrummers participants.


CONTACT US 302 Bedford Ave PMB #85 Brooklyn, NY 11249


Tom Tom Magazine ® is the only magazine in the world dedicated to female drummers. We are a quarterly print magazine, website, social media community, irl community, events, drum academy, custom gear shop and more. Tom Tom seeks to raise awareness about female percussionists from all over the world in hopes to inspire women and girls of all ages to drum. We intend to strengthen and build the fragmented community of female musicians globally and provide the music industry and the media with role models to create an equal opportunity landscape for any musician. We cover drummers of all ages, races, styles, skill levels, abilities, sexualities, creeds, class, sizes and notoriety. Tom Tom Magazine is more than just a magazine; it’s a movement.



Letter From the Editor In this issue of Tom Tom, we focus on health. If you want a long career in drumming (or anything for that matter) health (both mental and physical) will play a role in your success. As drumming is a physical, mental and creative practice, there are many healthy routines we can get into now that can save us some trying days in the future. We asked many of our drummer role models to speak to us honestly about a hardship they faced in their career and how they overcame it. We hope that their stories can help the rest us navigate this windy road. Inside this issue you can find great yoga postures for drummers, a conversation with an audiologist about ear care, tips on avoiding carpal tunnel and great posture technique. We also included an article on being secure with your body size and an interview with a drummer who overcame cancer. Susie Ibarra, Venzella Joy and Nikki Glaspie get to talking about meditation, drum injuries and daily routines. Robyn Schulkowsky told us about overcoming Lyme disease and Ikue Mori discusses pilates. In other Tom Tom news, I received the She Rocks Award for "Dreaming Out Loud" at this year’s NAMM convention. In accepting the award, I got nervous explaining what and who we are in front of a big music industry audience and giant screen TVs. I told a room full of people that we are here with the intention to grow the most promising (in growth potential) market of the drum industry. I told them that we have been working hard to put women and girls who already drum in the forefront in order to present role models for those to come. And I thanked all of you and them for helping us, supporting us and working alongside us to keep this going. Please talk to us online (social or email) and let us know what you like about us. Also, tell us what's working for you.

Love & Drums,

Mindy Seegal Abovitz Publisher/Founder/EIC

letters & art FROM YOU TO US WITH LOVE

Hey Tom Tom!

I just found out about this magazine through the NAMM website.

Stuuupid huge fan of yours! I’m Jordan, total amateur drummer, but a big fan of what you do and, you know, music and stuff. Really looking forward to the subscription I finally just bought and keep reading.

So cool. I am a drummer and percussionist living in the Bay Area. I have been playing drums and percussion from age 9. When I was in high school, I was the only female in the entire drum line. But when I came back to the same school four years later to teach the marching drummers, the ratio between girls and boys was about 50%. It was nice to see more females picking up the drums.

Thanks!! —Jordan C.

I have advocated for getting women, girls and people of color more involved in the fields of engineering, science and math. I believe that type of advocacy is needed in so many areas, including drumming. I see Tom Tom Magazine as helping fill that need, as it has helped inspire even this ‘ol gal to keep banging away and working to progress in both skill and speed behind the drums. Thanks for the good work you do to showcase and inspire others. Sincerely, —Brandy R.

Hi Tom Tom, I love your magazine. Thanks for creating something so inspiring for us drummer gals to read . xoxo, Marjorie/Gingee

Hi Mindy, I've been a follower of Tom Tom Magazine for a long while, and actually had a small interview in one of your issues when I was playing drums for a punk band called Whiskey Trench. I've since played professionally with Canadian acts such as Young Galaxy, Loud Lary Ajust, The Sainte Catherines and Dig It Up.

In 2004, I graduated with my Bachelors of Music (with emphasis in percussion performance), from San Jose State University where I studied with Tony Cirone and Galen Lemmon. Since then, I have toured with my percussion quintet, played drum set for a gothic hip hop artist from San Jose and played hundreds of musical theatre shows. I have played drums through two pregnancies and will hopefully be lucky enough to play for the rest of my life. I appreciate the entire concept of this magazine. Thanks so much, —Dana P

I'd like to thank you again for your dedication to keeping Tom Tom magazine alive; it's such an important publication for us female musicians! All the best, —Andrea S

I love your magazine.

Be well, be happy and keep the beat. —Gaylyn

Hello! I'm the drummer in toyGuitar (on Fat Records) and we just went to Japan with 10 other bands and I was the only female musician. I'm proud of myself!! I'm a huge advocate for female musicians because I know how hard it can be sometimes (or most times). Keep up the good work! Great to hear about so many rad drummers! —Rosie G



Rachal Duggan

There’s not many women drummers here so your mag connects me to the bigger picture and inspires me to try out new percussion instruments.

I love what you all do at Tom Tom. You're my favorite magazine!

YES!! Go Mindy Abovitz!!! I love and respect what you and your crew have accomplished so much!

These women are helping each other and paving the way for the next group and generation to do what they love and are exceptional at. Dahlia loves looking at Tom Tom Magazine and is inspired by the awesome drummers we learn about. Thank you all for everything you do! —Justin T

Thanks for everything, —Danielle G

Totally loved hearing about your magazine! I am a drummer myself, played djembe drum kit from age 12. Brings out something primal in me! So glad you’re encouraging more girls to get involved!

Shannon Latitude by Ellie Horse Party

The music industry was claimed by mostly chauvinistic, douchebag dudes long ago. I LOVE seeing them outplayed (and the -ego punishing- worry in their eyes) by the women who they normally objectify and demoralize to sell..

I wanted to share with you an illustration I did of one of my favorite female drummers, Janet Weiss. Hope you like it!

—Meg S

Thank you for everything you are doing for female drummers everywhere. We appreciate your diligence and hard work!!! —Nikki G

Dear Mindy, It was such a pleasure to meet you after your amazing discussion on Gender and Music at the Apple store a few months ago. I have been an avid reader and passionate fan of Tom Tom Magazine since I started drumming a few years ago. Not only is the content informative and inspiring, the typeface, graphic design, and illustrations are unique and well designed. Here is a Tom Tom illustration to show my support. Best, Becky Lowry

Argee R. Geronca

For the people who get all irritated when I put #girldrummer on posts of my lovely daughter drummer... I am insanely proud of my daughter and every girl who is a part of changing music. It doesn't happen by itself. Someone has to push for it and pave the way. It's not quite where it should be yet. Talent is talent. No matter what gender, race, nationality (or whatever other ignorant hang up applies.)

CONTACT US 302 Bedford Ave PMB #85 Brooklyn, NY 11249 @tomtommag

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Gourd face by Travis Robertson from Drum Baby at Gallery5 in Richmond, VA




Marjorie Light) uses every tool at her fingertips. The Los Angeleno of Filipino descent takes percussive instruments from all over the world, including the kulintang and kettle drum, and weaves their sounds with synths and rap lyrics to create a totally a original

by Mindy Abovitz Photo by Xeno

In order to spread a message of empowerment, DJ, producer, and vocalist Gingee (aka

fabric of celebratory songs. Just like Gingee combines the instruments of her ancestors with contemporary musical devices to express her auditory vision, she does the same with her wardrobe. The stylish musician explained her personal fashion amalgam to Tom Tom.

WHO IS YOUR FASHION ICON? Coco Chanel. I love the fact that she came from such humble beginnings yet revolutionized fashion by making women's clothing more comfortable and better suited for working. HOW DO YOU GET YOUR CLOTHING INSPIRATION? I take what I find around me—whether it’s from the mall, thrift shops, open-air markets, or pieces I find on my travels—and mix them all together. I love expressing my culture (I'm Filipino) through my clothing. But a lot of the traditional clothing is not available here, so I reinterpret the looks using whatever I can find, make or borrow, like from fabric stores and mom's closet. I find that my favorite accessories for shoots are my instruments. WHAT GETS YOUR ATTENTION? Individuality, people who are reinterpreting their culture and making it new. Women who fearlessly live their dreams. Photographer: Jennie Jen (Love and Hate Photography) / Makeup: Melanie Togo / Hair: Reina De Moss

WHAT IS YOUR DRUM OR GEAR SETUP? Technics turntables and Rane mixer, cowbells and sambago bells on a percussion rack, my kettle drum, my kulintang gongs, and other percussion instruments such as shakers, guiros, claves, and tambourine. For producing, I use Ableton Live with a Novation launchpad. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE OUTFIT? Right now my rainbow Tibetan dancing boots, "Master Your Craft" T-shirt by Chief Circle, black jeans, and and a parka with my silver lotus pendant from Nepal. WHO OR WHAT IS YOUR HAIR INSPIRATION? Sixties rude/mod girls with a dash of punk rock. Recently added some rainbow, mermaid streaks on one side. I love the idea of my hair being a collaborative art piece between me and my stylist. HOW DO YOU PICK YOUR OUTFITS OUT FOR A SHOW? They have to be comfortable enough for me to lift and set up equipment in, something I feel confident and sexy in. I usually go for black, fitted clothes with a punch of neon colors somewhere and a necklace (‘cause bracelets and earrings get in the way of playing and DJ’ing). No heels please!

HOW DID YOU GET INTO DRUMMING/BEATMAKING/PRODUCING? My dad introduced me to percussion early on. Then when my sister got a drum set, I started playing too. I took a bunch of classes such as Indian tabla, Balinese gamelan, and studied Nepali folk music and tabla in India. Then I started combining poetry with electronic beats and percussion and that’s when I really got into producing. WHO HAVE YOU WORKED WITH? Banginclude (global bass producer), MC Zulu (electro-reggae MC), Nite N Dae (hip-hop MC), and several music blogs and labels such as Global Bassed, Party Time Society, and Generation Bass. WHO WOULD YOU LIKE TO WORK WITH? Female percussionists and producers! I would also love to bring together Filipino producers for a compilation. Making a track with M.I.A. or Kathleen Hanna would be amazing! WHAT IS YOUR FAV VENUE TO PLAY? The Airliner in Lincoln Heights, Los Angeles, is like a second home for me and my artist and musician friends. We throw a show there called Soundpaint that combines live music, art gallery, and art making stations. They support the underground. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR STYLE? Tribal hip-hop raver chic. WHICH DESIGNER WOULD YOU LOVE TO COLLABORATE WITH? Karl Lagerfeld. I would love to do a modern interpretation of young Coco Chanel. WHICH DESIGNER REPRESENTS YOUR MUSIC BEST? Betsey Johnson. The colors, the flowers, the vintage fierceness! NEWEST PROJECTS: My new EP Tambol (Filipino word for "drum") is available on iTunes. I combined traditional Filipino instruments and sounds such as kulintang (gongs), tinikling (bamboo clappers), and other percussion instruments with various styles of global bass music (zouk bass, moombahton, dancehall, and trap) as well as rap and poetry.


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MONTANA KITCHING is an illustrator based out of Melbourne who explores mental health, menstruation, sexuality and feminism through illustration. We asked her to challenge notions of insecurity and drumming for this piece below. It took me a long time to call myself a drummer and to approach folks I wanted to play with. It took me years in fact. So this piece of art really resonates with me...





INGREDIENTS: 1 bunch of broccoli 2 tablespoons of peanut butter Soy sauce Chili garlic sauce DIRECTIONS MOST HOTEL ROOMS IN EUROPE, even the low-budget hostels, will have a hot water kettle to boil water. If you’re in the US, it will probably be a coffee pot. A jar of peanut butter is a great thing to have along with you in your snack bag. And packs of soy sauce and chili sauce from rest stops or restaurants are a must.

1. Cut a few inches off the bottom of the broccoli stems and peel off the leaves. You want two or three broccoli “trees” intact.

6. Cut the broccoli into florets and place in a container (a leftover plastic takeout soup container or in a pinch, a plastic shopping bag).

2. Place them in the sink stem-side down and pull up the sink stopper so the water won’t drain.

7. Add the spicy peanut sauce and shake to coat the florets evenly.

3. Pour boiling water over the broccoli and cover the sink with a towel and let it sit for 10 minutes. 4. Repeat (unless you prefer your veggies super crunchy). 5. In a small bowl, mix two tablespoons of peanut butter with a little boiling water and stir with a fork till blended. Add the soy sauce and chili garlic sauce to taste.

8. Eat the delicious broccoli and experiment with other veggies like zucchini, spinach, cauliflower, kale, string beans, and snap peas.

TIP: Feel free to experiment with other veggies like zucchini, spinach, cauliflower, kale, string beans, and snap peas.

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by Min dy Abovitz Ph otos cou r tes y of Da vid Lewis Ga ller y

This installation entitled Cluster, by Dawn Kasper, is her second exhibition with the David Lewis Gallery showing now in NYC. We have featured Dawn’s work in Issue 4 of this magazine (way back when) and are still enthralled with her participatory art. This piece consists of sixtythree cymbals installed throughout the gallery in clusters alluding to astronomical configurations. She wired the cymbals with motion detectors and motors in order to have them activate musically as the viewer navigates the gallery (see her hand-written diagram for this set-up). The cymbals act as a star map as well as an interactive orchestration.

Dawn Kasper (b.1977, Fairfax, Virginia) received her MFA from UCLA in 2003. Recent solo exhibitions include Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, Portland, OR (2015); Issue Project Room, New York (2015); ADN Collection, Bolzano, Italy (2015); and David Lewis, New York (2014). Group exhibitions include The Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art (2012); Public Art Fund, Art Basel Miami Beach, FL (2014); Kasper lives and works in New York. I S S U E 2 5 : T H E H E A LT H I S S U E



by Angela Lese | Interview by Mindy Abovitz Photos courtesy of Angie


've always been a "weather weenie.” While in graduate school at Purdue University, I began an internship with the National Weather Service (NWS). I worked in northern Indiana during the summers until I graduated in December of 2003. I started my career in 2004 at the NWS office in Springfield, Missouri. My job took me to Louisville too, where I was a lead Nashville forecaster and promoted to management. At the weather service, we're responsible for the protection of life and property through our watches and warnings (Yep, we're the ones that issue the tornado warnings). My specialties include severe weather operations and research on squall lines and bow echoes. I began my music career as a flute major at a private college in Indianapolis, but I had always wanted to play the drums. My uncle had a drum set, and I could just sit down and play a beat—it felt like it was in my blood. So when I transferred to Purdue University a few years later, I bought a Tama drum kit on a whim and taught myself how to play. When I moved to Louisville, it was there where I really began to take my music career seriously. I played in several cover bands and a couple of original ones, too, most notably CatFight (



When I moved to Nashville in 2012, it was about a year later when I met singer/songwriter Leticia Wolf and her best friend. We jammed and hit it off. Adding Leticia's sister to the mix, we formed a Dead Milkmen tribute band in the fall of 2013. From there, I convinced my best friend and singer/songwriter of CatFight to move to Nashville and jam with the band. We all got along so well and loved playing together that we decided to write our own music. The Dead Deads were born! We've been on a whirlwind tour ever since. We recorded our first full-length album Rainbeau (available on iTunes) in three days, live to tape, at Paradox Productions in Nashville in 2014. We went on our first national tour with Halestorm that same year. Since then, we were one of the headliners of Riverbend Fest in Chattanooga in 2015, opened for Evanescence, and played on Motörhead's Motörboat with legends Motorhead, Slayer, and Anthrax. We just landed ashore from the ShipRocked cruise.


HOW DO YOU FIT IN TOURING WITH YOUR DAY JOB? It's difficult! I save as much vacation time as possible and so far, the balance has worked out. HOW DO PEOPLE AT WORK REACT WHEN THEY FIND OUT YOU ARE A DRUMMER? They think I'm the coolest! You'd be surprised to find out how many meteorologist drummers there actually are out there. HOW DOES BEING A DRUMMER AFFECT YOUR JOB? Well, I'm financially able to pursue my drumming dream because of my meteorology career. If anything, the drumming has given me a little more notoriety within the weather community. HAVE YOU EVER FELT LIKE YOU HAD TO CHOOSE BETWEEN YOUR JOB AND BEING A DRUMMER? Not yet, but I feel like I'll be making that decision in my near future. DO YOU EVER HIDE THAT YOU ARE A DRUMMER OR YOUR PROFESSION? While I'm drumming, I don't really like to tell people I'm a meteorologist because everyone wants a forecast (laughs). I can "nerd out" a bit on severe weather and tornadoes. I'll always like talking about that. But I love talking about music while I'm at my day job. HOW IS YOUR JOB SIMILAR TO DRUMMING OR HOW DO THE TWO COMPLEMENT EACH OTHER? The two positions are very mathy, that's probably the biggest comparison. But my day job is a management position, so I've learned to use those strengths within the business of the band. We do everything ourselves in the band. HOW DO YOU GET INTO THE FRAME OF MIND OF WORK OR DRUMS IF YOU ARE IN THE OPPOSITE ONE? The biggest struggle is trying to focus on my day job—all I do is daydream of where this band is going. I literally have to hide my phone and ignore my personal email if I want to accomplish anything at

FULL NAME: Angela Lese AGE: 36 HOMETOWN: Fort Wayne, IN LIVES IN: Nashville, TN PAST BANDS: CatFight (Louisville, KY) CURRENT BANDS: The Dead Deads (original hard rock), The Cherry Bombs (Runaways tribute band) PAST JOBS: Weather Observer CURRENT JOB: Meteorologist EDUCATION: M.S from Purdue University WORK HOURS: 40/week BAND PRACTICE HOURS: 12-16/week (between practice,shows, band business) YOUR TITLE AT WORK: Science and Operations Officer (aka the office trainer) BAND WEBSITE: WORK WEBSITE:

work! Getting into the drumming frame of mind is easy though. It's where I belong, so my mind can take me there in an instant. WHAT ARE SOME NEW THINGS COMING UP WITH YOUR BAND? So much! Represented by Triad Entertainment and TKO Booking, our plan is to tour, tour, tour in 2016, the soonest being SXSW. We're currently writing a new EP and hope to have our second full-length album out by summer. We began 2016 with a bang by being on the ShipRocked cruise, and we're going to hit the ground running with that momentum!


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It’s a cliche that there are three keys to becoming a great musician: practice, practice, practice. But for us to become great drummers, there are two more things we need to do: tone and condition our bodies. Unlike any other instrument, drumming is a full-body workout, and the stronger you are, the easier it is to hit hard, play fast, and keep it up for an hour-plus on stage (not to mention the encores!) Easier said than done, right? I’m on a pretty good roll right now, so let me share some tips that helped me get off the struggle bus.



First and foremost is attitude: You must be happy or all else will fail. Your mental state matters 100 times more than how physically fit you are. The following are practices I like to do to stay mentally healthy:

It’s difficult to find the time to workout. But as a drummer, if I plan to not be dead dead by the end of a show, I need stamina. These are my guidelines I try to follow, but don’t deny yourself treats here and there.

Journal every morning for 20 minutes as soon as you wake up. Get that negativity out so you can tackle the day with a fresh, clear mind. Even if some crazy shit pops into your head, write it down. Let your stream of consciousness guide your pen, and then don’t go back and read it when you’re done—let it rest. I dismissed this activity when I first started, but you really wouldn’t believe the difference it’ll make in your mental health if you keep it up.

For those nine-to-fivers, go directly to the gym after work. Physically stepping foot inside the gym is truly 95 percent of the battle. For those with a non-traditional schedule, go early in the morning to start your day on the right foot.

Take “me” time. Treat yourself. You go through a lot and deserve it.

At the very least, stretch and walk.

Create affirmations for yourself and repeat them daily: “I’m a good drummer”; “I work hard”; “I made up a cool beat for that song.” Put dreams into action. Daily affirmations will help you see some paths open up that you were too blocked to see before.

Drink your veggies. Yes, drink. Powdered greens, I think, have helped me stay healthy. I use Amazing Grass’ Green Superfood (Tangerine). Put a little flavored water enhancer in there and choke that shit down.

Be kind. The universe works for you.

Eat salads. A big bowl of lettuce is only 50 calories! Just leave the cheese off.

If you are on the road, can’t find the time, or don’t have a gym membership, there’s always a good 15 to 20 minute workout combining cardio and strength worth doing (see below).

H2O: Give me a beer any day, but I guess this stuff works best for the body. Oh, and just stay away from the beer as best as you can. As a band, The Dead Deads like to “get swole” backstage before every show. It’s a tradition. We gather in a circle and do stretches, ten pushups, 20 squats, and the list goes on. It makes it more fun, warms us up, and electrifies our camaraderie right before hitting the stage. Try it with your band!



Do seven rounds of the following (take a 30-second break in between Hit the gym. rounds). If seven rounds are too many, try three and build from there. To start, walk or jog on the treadmill or do some other cardio for It’s a quick and dirty way to at least get some physical activity in on a 30 minutes. busy day. Do seven of each: push-ups squats knees to elbow (if you don’t have a pull-up bar, do these as a sit up) lunges (each leg) burpees (YouTube that) kettlebell swings (if you don’t have a kettlebell, use a 15 to 20 pound dumbbell) 18


Do some sit-ups, push-ups, squats, and even lunges, if you’re feeling frisky. Use 10 to 15 pound dumbbells and do 12 curls and kickbacks, three times for each arm.


“Back in 1992, when I was a teenager in Hawaii, a pro-drummer friend of mine let me play his DW drum set. They were the first DWs on the island, were beautifully made and sounded like no other. I convinced my friend to sell me the kit, and it became my dream to one day become a DW artist. I can remember staring at ads in magazines and watching my favorite DW players, and now I’m one of them! ” – Eric Hernandez

PROUD ©2016 Drum Workshop, Inc. All Rights Reserved.




In a career lasting more than two decades, heavy hitter Sheila Earley of the Duke Ellington Legacy Band has performed in all 50 states, hitting all of the major jazz clubs in New York City and Boston along the way and playing with some of jazz’s finest. She studied with Jeff Hamilton and Alex Acuña with whom, she says, “my world exploded musically.” These days, she splits her time between New York, Phoenix, and the Midwest and works with young musicians to help them develop their skills. Most excitingly, Earley spoke with Tom Tom about how she secured a role in the 2015 feature-length film Sugar! thanks to an iPhone video and by simply being a noteworthy drummer. Ladies and gentlemen, meet the other Sheila E. KELLI RAE: YOU GOT GREAT ADVICE EARLY ON. Sheila: Ray Brown, the bassist with the Milt Jackson-Ray Brown Quintet told me, “Take any gig. If you can do it, do it. You have to build some playing experiences.” You don’t know who you’ll meet or where it will lead. HOW DID YOU GET TO CO-STAR IN SUGAR! MOVIE? Jami (Dauber—fellow jazz drummer) emailed asking, “Would you be interested in playing drums in a movie? Can I pass your phone number to a talent agent?” I thought, “This is never going to happen,” but I sent a video. After viewing the video I sent, she replied, “You can really play. Can you be in Midtown in Manhattan tomorrow to do a reading?” I said, “Well, I’m in Wisconsin…” I thought that would be the end, but she said, “We’ll send you the lines. Just record it and send it back to us.” THEY LIKED WHAT YOU SENT? Yeah. The director then wanted to Skype with me. She said, “We hire independent [actors] and some of them are crazy. They want to be in the movies.” I said, “Well, I’m a drummer, I don’t care about the movies. I just like to play the drums.” “You have the job then,” she said. THE MOVIE SUGAR! FEATURES SOME TOP-NOTCH ACTING TALENT AND AN ALL-FEMALE BAND, RIGHT? Yes, it stars Tony award winner, Alice Ripley, and Robert Clohessy. Ripley’s character is a piano teacher whose husband, a family man at heart, is running for Senate. He’s busy on the

campaign trail and she gets distracted by the death of her drummer from the rock band she formed in her twenties. A former band member who attends the funeral convinces her to resurrect the group. WHAT CHARACTER DO YOU PLAY? I play the part of Cindy, a mother and fulltime drummer, kind of a drinker, a tough woman who’s been around the block a time or two. To the [original members], the band is a fun little project, but to Cindy, it’s like, “C’mon, man. This is how I make my living.” WHAT WAS THE FILMING EXPERIENCE LIKE? The movie was shot primarily in Brooklyn and Harlem. It was mind blowing behind the scenes. The actual filming of the lines is such a miniscule part. You’re there for hours waiting. When they film close-ups of people, you’re not on camera, but you need to be precise delivering your lines. You have to have showmanship. I spun my sticks a lot— it adds visually. THE BAND IN THE MOVIE RECORDED THE SOUNDTRACK? We recorded four or five songs. During the live band scenes, we played with the tracks, so it is very real. I had to learn: “What did I do there?” So that I would perform the exact same thing on film. WHAT HAS HAPPENED SINCE FILMING ENDED? One of the best connections I made was with June Millington, guitarist from the first-signed female rock band, Fanny, who portrays “Jane” in the movie.

She runs summer camps for girls aged 7-11 in Massachusetts at the Institute of Musical Arts. The girls learn how to write songs, play instruments, and they had a performance. I became an instructor there. AND YOU’RE AN INSTRUCTOR AT THE PERFORMER’S INSTITUTE IN PHOENIX? Yes, I focus on beginners. They’re so fresh. Young kids are capable of much more in the beginning than people, some music teachers, will give them credit for. ON YOUR WEBSITE, YOU STATE THAT YOU LIVE A LIFE OF INVITATION. EXPLAIN THAT. Musicians have to be OK with our lives being a little bit different. They’re not going to parallel the lives of people we grew up with. You’ve been given this talent for a reason, so don’t shut the door on it. If you can leave the door open, even a little bit, and stay involved long enough, something great is going to happen!

Name: Sheila Earley Hometown: New Richmond, Wisconsin First Gig: The Shamrock in New Richmond Most Surreal Experience: Performing “Hello, Dolly!” in Japan “Must Have” Item on Gigs: My Zoom HD recorder Today’s Playlist: “When It Haynes, It Roars” Early Influences: Buddy Rich, Jeff Hamilton, Roy Haynes Influences Today: Alex Acuña, Brian Blade, and Lewis Nash Next Drummers You’d Like to Study With: Lewis Nash and Alex Acuña Next Professional Goal: To secure a gig with a world-class piano trio



BIG MOON by Lucy Katz photos courtesy of Big Moon

It feels appropriate that since their fortuitous formation less than two years ago, Londonbased band The Big Moon thought it necessary to include “big” in its name. Presumably, a normal-sized moon is unable to contain the kind of super self-assured rock ’n’ roll that these four women create together. Friends-of-friends, Celia Archer, Fern Ford, Soph Nathan, and Juliette Jackson may have only known each other for a year and a half, but their instantaneous friendship resulted in a creative concordance that’s manifested in a handful of brilliant singles and a reputation for playfully raucous live performances. While we impatiently drum our fingers on our knees in anticipation of a debut album, get to know a little of the woman behind the kit, Fern Ford. She is the van Tetris expert of the world and one of the premier Welsh percussionists of the moment. raucous live performances. While we impatiently drum our fingers on our knees in anticipation of a debut album, get to know a little of the woman behind the kit, Fern Ford. She is the van Tetris expert of the world and one of the premier Welsh percussionists of the moment.



soundcheck, by the time I get to the venue, I’m excited to get on stage with the girls. Our music is fun to play, and I hope, fun to watch and listen to. And I think that our friendship is translated into our show. YOU RECENTLY PLAYED THE CARDIFF ARENA IN WALES. WHAT WAS IT LIKE PLAYING ON THE SAME STAGE AS THAT INIMITABLE, UNSURPASSABLE NINETIES TOUR-DE-FORCE THAT IS BOYZONE? Honestly, one of the coolest moments of my life! Boyzone were my first and second ever gigs, Steps my third and Westlife my fourth and fifth. I had all the family there as well, pretty special night. Steps were my first gig actually. They don’t manufacture bands like that anymore. Now, there is a fair amount of ineptitude around in music, especially in DIY scenes. There always has been, and it’s important and charming in a lot of ways.

WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING IN YOUR LIFE IF YOU WEREN’T PLAYING MUSIC? I wanted to be a paramedic when I was younger. I also love woodwork. I love the feeling of building something from nothing and using your hands to do so. WHAT’S YOUR DRUMMING PERSONA? WHO IS YOUR DRUMMING SASHA FIERCE? Ha! I don’t know! People say I gurn a lot. Fern Gurn. I have a drunk persona but not drumming. The girls call me Gwyn or Gwen, can’t remember. I basically chat sh*t in Welsh and build fires. They think I’m a witch. WHAT’S THE WEIRDEST OR FUNNIEST THING THAT’S EVER HAPPENED TO YOU ON STAGE? I fell off my stool last night. Well, not so much fell off, but balanced on one leg.


BUT HOW ESSENTIAL IS PROFICIENCY FOR YOU AS A DRUMMER AND COLLECTIVELY AS A GROUP? Pretty important I think. There’s a definite balance between having a sound tight and having it sound scuzzy. Our main aim is to have the precision with all the fun of playing it loosely. HOW DID YOUR DRUM-LIFE BEGIN? I started playing when I was 14. I’d always liked the idea of playing drums, I was always tapping away and building makeshift kits out of boxes and pans. Then my parents bought me a drum kit for Christmas. The only thing was, I’d gone off the idea by then and felt super guilty. So I took lessons out of guilt. It was a 25 minute lesson, I knew after 15 minutes that this is what I was gonna do now. ALTHOUGH YOU WERE BOUGHT TOGETHER WITHOUT KNOWING EACH OTHER BEFORE, IT SEEMS LIKE YOU’VE ALL BECOME VERY CLOSE VERY QUICKLY. HOW IMPORTANT ARE THESE FRIENDSHIPS? Very important. It’s a different kind of friendship though. Touring is tough, you’re in each other’s faces 24/7, and so you have to be respectful of giving people space. I often go walking alone in a city before

JULIETTE SAID SHE’D “ALL BUT GIVEN UP MUSIC” BEFORE THE BIG MOON FORMED. WHAT WAS YOUR POSITION AND WHAT WERE YOUR PROSPECTS LIKE BEFORE YOU STARTED PLAYING IN THE BAND? I played with various bands and singers right after university. It was OK, but I kind of found it difficult making any money from it, so I had to find work elsewhere in food trucks and doing security. Fun fact: I have an NVQ2 in Spectator Safety. Crowd control is my jam. DO YOU THINK LONDON IS A GOOD PLACE RIGHT NOW TO BE A BAND? London is a weird one. It’s super expensive to live here but you’re told that this is where all the gigs are. With so many people flocking here, it makes getting those gigs even harder. Having said that, I think people are getting a little tired of it and there are so many other cities in the UK now with good scenes, especially Manchester.

THE THEME OF THIS ISSUE IS “HEALTH.” WHAT ARE YOUR TIPS FOR STAYING HEALTHY AS A DRUMMER AND AS A HUMAN FOR THAT MATTER? The standard stuff really. Eat well, get your heart pumping the red stuff. I try to run rather than walk up stairs, have done since I was a kid and that gets the old ticker going. I also switched sugary drinks for sparkling water; that makes such a difference. You know what they say, look after your body and your body will look after you! I READ AN INTERVIEW IN WHICH ONE OF YOUR BANDMATES SAID YOU LOVE PLAYING VAN TETRIS, YOU MAKE SPREADSHEETS AND YOU LAMINATED THE MERCH SIGNS. HOW MUCH OF THESE THREE THINGS (VAN ORGANIZATION/SPREADSHEETS/LAMINATING) FAIRLY SUM YOU UP AS A PERSON? They sum me up pretty well, to be fair! The spreadsheets and laminating were just when we did a tour that I managed. I wanted everything to go as smoothly as possible and made a budget and itineraries for each day. Super lame. But we have a tour manager now and I’m more than happy to pass on the baton. My skill level in van Tetris is expert.

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BODY POSITIVE DRUMMING By Aly Michael and Candace Hansen Illustration by Charlotte Louise

Drumming is one of the most radical feminist forms of expression for womxn* and gender non-conforming individuals. Drummers of size understand the complex position of having to defend our health and our bodies to strangers and colleagues in an industry (and world) that values and rewards thinness while capitalizing on body shame. Fat womxn and queers exist as a market and a taboo. Our bodies are cautionary tales about failure to comply with the rules of beauty and obedience necessary to industries who profit off of telling us we are broken. Fat, chubby, plus-size, skinny, buff—however you identify, when you drum, it is powerful. People can be healthy at every size, and drumming is an activity that everyone can do to optimize emotional, physical, community, and spiritual health.

*This is alternative way of writing “women” or “woman” that is thought of as more transinclusive.

SOUND Womxn of size are often socialized to be quiet and take up as little space as possible in an effort to divert attention away from our bodies, but drumming does the opposite of that. We take up space with sound, drawing attention and connecting our body with our mind and spirit. The act of drumming is immediate: You strike the drum to make sound! Through this immediacy, we can become fully embodied in the sounds and actions. This gets us out of our heads and connects us with the rhythms and harmony of ourselves, other musicians, and the universe. This universal, harmonic rhythm force exists regardless of fat-shaming stigmas in our society. Music exists outside of the societal constraints on being skinny and therefore “beautiful.” Once tapped into this flow of music, drummers can begin to shed damaging social barriers that create a disconnect from our bodies. Because we have more mass, we take up more space and make more sound!

N REPRESENTATIO n at people of size ca public, we show th in to m y dru rar nt we n co , he ce W d gra agility, stamina, an r size Ou . nly ve move quickly, with slo d an y views of fat as laz dominant societal rs, it enhances us! from being shredde us t en ev doesn't pr sitive images po g dia representin me of e. k lac a is ere Th n drummers of siz nforming and womx narrae ap sh to of gender non-co l tia ten drummers the po Being visible gives d music, which ons about bodies an ati ers nv co tives and pictions of de am nt than mainstre are radically differe ubby bodies are ch n he W e. siz ople of drummers and of pe bodies belong fat er unicate that oth on stage, we comm tions are emotions and aspira there too, that their e. ac respect and sp valued, deserving of

HEALTH Drummers of size, stand in the power of the sonic potential wit hin you.

UNITIES OPPORT E IV T A N people ALTER onforming der non-c e n w e g s e d m an ti Womxn at some erstand th igs or may be d n u ze si of rg get hired fo rs more "beautiful" might not mme ru d r fo r Vanderpassed ove study conducted at h 13 or A ig r. e e w n or thin mxn who o w t a eptions th d ream perc bilt prove over mainst e of s g d ra n e u o av p more make an ” t, h ig to e e w u of “normal per year, primarily d ze for si f ss o le 0 xn $9,00 hire wom e refusal to is prejudic employer ause of th c e B e s. n w o , ti ze si si o f p o visible omxn mes and w d create against fem sic for ourselves an ate u m cre y to la s p ie often ortunit ingful opp u ts id e o f o , y it n u new mean m w it h c o m bsessed fo r fu n o r d image-o an am re st the main rld. musical wo

Often, we're given exercise as the only way to connect with our bodies. But exercise can harbor an ulterior, fat-shaming motive: to make us skinny. Drumming is a physical movement that connects us with our bodies without these underlying motives. We let music move through us physically, without body shame oriented goals. Through drumming, we can fully, physically embrace our fat bodies, using them as a vessel for communication, joy, and creativity.

PHYSICAL MOVEMENT: Connecting with Our Bodies When we drum, we are able to reconnect with our bodies, sometimes in radically visible ways. We use nearly every part of our body. We move our arms, legs, and core. We engage our muscles, channeling emotion and energy through physical activity. People of size have been taught to disconnect from our bodies, to wait until our bodies are thin and therefore acceptable enough to start living the lives we deserve.


itions, drumming Despite the very different sonic cond use of its ability beca n itatio med to d pare com been has at Remo’s ers arch Rese . spirit to combine body and evidence linking d foun have ram prog hms Rhyt th Heal r, stress reducdrumming to increased immune powe ections. conn an hum ful ning mea even and tion,

Drumming is powerful, music therapists use it to treat depression and PTSD because of the healing potential of vibrations which stimulate cells. We can use drumming as a way to channel anger and frustration, as well as a meditative process to focus our energy and emotions.

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by Shaina Machlus Illustration by Charlotte Louise In my very normal New Jersey public elementary school, twice each year, boys and girls were separated into different classrooms. The girls sat crossedlegged on cold, vinyl flooring watching movies about breasts and pubic hair that sprouted overnight, and with these developments, menstruation. There was a clicking sound of the VHS and a grainy video starting with the ocean and the moon. The waves going in and out, rhythmically, constantly. A voice explained to a group of confused girls that we were like the moon, we have monthly phases. We are waxing, waning, full, and then empty. Stopping only to be pulled to start again. Before there were humans, there was the moon, the oldest metronome. Women have this interstellar connection within them. And this is magic. I once read that being exposed to only 20-30 minutes of moonlight per day causes a woman’s menstrual cycles to sync with its celestial cycle—menstruating on the new and ovulating on the full moon. At twenty-one, my period left. Or it just stopped showing up. The event felt much larger than one might expect. Something like trying to see your fingerprints in a dark room. A trust in physical existence and identity without the comfort of visual evidence. With its disappearance, I realized what an important part my period played in my own idea of being a woman. I was twelve when I got my first period, I remember feeling slightly woozy, finding my mom in the stairway and whispering the news of the event. Her response was a time-old Jewish tradition, the very same her mom had greeted her with: a quick and swift smack on the back, a firm woomp-ing sound in chorus with the affirmation. “Welcome to womanhood!” In my mind, these memories are lumped together. I was left feeling rhythmless and vast. There was a silence inside my body. And thus began my search. Doctors pointed to a hereditarily faulty thyroid, explaining it was no longer communicating with my uterus. There were medications, but they were experimental and unequivocally strong. Instead choosing the “wait and see” medical route, I was curious to find out more about these uterine-thyroid conversations. What did they sound like? How could I be excluded from my own bodily talk? I contemplated the channel, station, frequency—how could I become included in my body’s discussions again. So I picked up a pair of drumsticks, commencing a new way to listen and be heard. Body, we will talk. Learning how to count with my body in musical measures was infinitely satisfying; another way to organize and categorize the way time passes through us. To hear my limbs create sound independent from one another but somehow connected, as I was convalescing, was like finding constellations in the vast night sky. Body, we will work together and separately.




The more I played, the more intimate my music became. I let the beat borrow from my arms and legs and listened closely to the rhythms that materialized. Feeling always more myself, more connected to pattern and flow. Never sick, only mildly silenced. Two full years passed, watching the moon wax and wane, signaling to my body. I created a Morse code using the deepness of toms, the scattered syncopation of the snare, and the sting of shiny symbols. These conversations that were too internal and even embarrassing to be spoken out loud or with other people, were instead offered to unaware audiences. I played for and with bands, concerts, lovers. There was a gentle, patient baker with long kneading fingers who gave more than enough love for the three of us—himself, me, and my body. There were rock bands whose noble goal was not to be famous now but be discovered in twenty years, buried in piles of half priced records. I took all the roads and highways that lead to sometimes full and sometimes empty, dim, dusty bars, taking in their well-worn familiar hospitality. I enjoyed the sincere camaraderie of people trying to create something collectively. And although I felt grateful for them, these pieces were all pieces orbiting around my own larger center. We have ways of defining ourselves as planets. We have our own gravity, a proximity to ourselves and space from others, things that contain us and things we contain. And then my body was full again. It came in a dream, little drops of blood gathered on white sheets, white underwear. I remember stripping the sheets, dragging them to my tiny tiled bathroom, hot water, the fabric between my hands, the tightness of my stomach, scrubbing. The red-yellow darkness of early sunrise and the profound silence of a world just waking up. In this deepspace I learned ailing, ailment, and mending. And, most notably, the delicacy in which they rely upon one another.

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by Rebecca DeRosa photo courtesy of artist



We all have that fear of the dreaded “Big C.” Too many of us have either battled cancer ourselves or have been there for loved ones as they go through treatment. At 29, one of our own, drummer Samantha Niss, suffered the worst of this disease and came out the other end in remission.

cats and dogs, just checking in, talking with me at 2 a.m. when I couldn't sleep and was hurting.... It was really nice. Some of my good friends in Pelican Movement got me a cool little guitar and built a tiny amp that I could keep with me where I was recovering most of the time.

The drummer for several bands including Frankie and His Fingers, Laura Stevenson, and Battle Ave., Niss has been playing music nearly her entire life—leaving college to pursue it full-time. She spoke with us home about how her personal relationships changed throughout this process, what album helped her in the toughest times, and how she’s relearning and revamping her own rhythm.

What was most surprising to you about having cancer?

Tom Tom: You’re in a couple different projects right now. What are you most excited about? Samantha Niss: Coming up, I am definitely most excited about being able to get back out on the road and play shows again. Battle Ave. has a few local ones coming up, and then there's a full U.S. tour with Laura Stevenson in the spring and some other stuff on the horizon. Currently, I am actually working on my own project, Hiding Behind Sound, and I am in the studio recording drums and percussion with Kevin McMahon. What music are you listening to right now? What trends in music are interesting to you? I have been listening to David Bowie's new album pretty much nonstop since it came out. I can't stop. The songs and the playing—it’s just so good (that drummer!), and the whole thing just really resonates with me in a very powerful way. This is the Health issue, so I’d like to talk to you about your experience with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. How old were you when you got your diagnosis? How did it hit you? I got diagnosed only last year. I was 28. The week before I first went to the doctor—early May 2015—I had just finished recording the Cocksure record with Laura Stevenson and the gang. I was about to leave for tour with Battle Ave. and on the date of our first show was the day they found the first mass. Obviously we had to cancel the tour, and I was officially diagnosed a couple weeks later. It was pretty strange and surreal and still is. It's a hard thing to wrap your brain around and accept, even when you're sitting there a month or so later getting chemo. How have your fellow musicians and other folks you work with been supportive? Mostly everyone has been pretty great. I have a really strong support system between all my bands and band mates and all the other musicians I know in the area. It's actually pretty crazy to me how amazing they all were. A lot of people stepped up and helped me get through the days and really they still are helping me. Even little things, like offering rides to and from the city, coming to visit me, sending me a crazy amount of texts and links to cute pictures of

How slowly and yet how quickly it felt like it all happened. And even though people were great, everyone treats you differently. Also just how many people reached out to me. I wasn't super public about being sick, but when people did find out, it was amazing to see and hear from people who got in touch. Congratulations on being in remission! How do you stay healthy now? Thank you! I am indeed in remission. It's been about three months since my last scans and I am still being monitored and go in every two months. It’ll be like that for a while. It kinda takes a while to get over the treatment alone so I am still recovering. There's not really anything special to my self-care methods (truthfully, I was doing most of these before I got diagnosed). I make sure I'm eating healthy—enough fruits and vegetables, staying away from junk food, cooking at home instead of eating out—just kind of making sure I know what I'm putting in my body. I also make sure I'm eating every few hours. Staying hydrated is super important. Exercise is a real key thing for me for two reasons: to help get my stamina and strength back but also for my mental wellbeing. So, I get myself to the gym and do cardio every day and various weight machines every other day. I am also exercising my hands a whole lot by practicing on a drum pad and having band practices. A super important thing though is that when I feel tired, I need to listen and give myself the time to rest. I gotta remember that I need to take it easy sometimes, which can be harder than it sounds. Have you changed as a musician and as a person as a result of fighting an illness? I don't think I know the full extent of it all yet. I know it has changed me, but it is still so fresh that it is hard to figure out. I am still recovering and there are fresh side effects I'm still dealing with. Musically, my rhythm is not the same. My natural feel and groove isn't totally back and I have trouble at points with it—figuring out beats or remembering songs that I should know. It's kinda scary actually. They say that it will get better with time so I am just hoping for the best. Do you find drumming, playing music, or listening to music to be therapeutic? Yes. Absolutely. It's always been like that for me and is true especially now. I am pretty much always playing or listening to music. For more, check out Samantha’s blog:

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Photos and Words by Anastasia Smith I unexpectedly found myself drumming in early October 2015 during the Oeshiki Festival in Tokyo. I was living there at the time and had become friendly with members of a small Buddhist temple in my neighborhood. They invited me to join their annual procession to the main temple. On the night of Oeshiki, we marched with thousands of other pilgrims. We beat hand drums and carried giant homemade lanterns of one thousand lights, hoping to wake and warm the spirit of the long-deceased temple founder. I can’t be sure if we succeeded in waking him, but during the festival, I felt my whole self vibrate and stir. As I drummed and walked, I remembered my body once again in all of its miracles, its limitations and imperfections, its strange joys and revolts. “This is why we make noise,” I thought. “This is the celebration of our bodies and our embodiment. This drumming!” I say remembered once again because this reawakening is an essential part of my current philosophy of health. The fleeting experience of being in my body, the acceptance of my life on my body’s terms is what I continually seek from every practice of health and self-care. I started doing yoga fifteen years ago in the name of good health. I expected yoga would improve my strength and flexibility while keeping me trim. I hoped it would alter my nervous mind and change the things I disliked about myself.



At that time, I believed “healthy” was a look: an amalgam of images from yoga teachers, celebrities, and my mother. Now I understand healthy as a sense of connectedness to my body, and by this definition, healthy defies any definite shape or face. I’ve been teaching yoga for five years, and at this point, I’m more interested in experiencing my self and my body as it is, rather than improving it. By stretching and moving in unfamiliar ways, I hope that I’ll discover something new about how I’m put together. Of course, self-knowledge (svādhyāya in yogic scriptures) is bound to lead to disappointments. My body is limited by so much. I feel it growing old. My shoulders ache, my left hip is tight, I still have a nervous mind, my pancreas no longer works because of diabetes so I wear little plastic insulin pump tucked into my bra. Yet moving and breathing into my broken and imperfect body brings me great joy. I am reminded that it’s not important why my hip is tight nor why my pancreas failed, it’s only important that I enjoy the experience of being in my body now.

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An Audiologist Speaks: Everything you ever wanted to know about hearing damage. By Lisa Schonberg Illustrations by the incredible Aidan Koch

As drummers, our ears are one of our most precious tools, and protecting them is in our best interest. Having drummed for nearly three decades, I've often wondered whether I've been taking the right precautionary steps to ensure my ears remain healthy. I sat down with audiologist Shelly Boelter, Au.D, F-AAA to have a conversation about hearing issues related to drumming. The suffix Au.D indicates that Shelly is a doctor of audiology, and F-AAA indicates that she is a Fellow of the American Academy of Audiology. Dr. Boelter works at the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) Ear Nose and Throat Clinic in Portland, Oregon. Some of the most advanced research on hearing loss in the country is being conducted at OHSU. Dr. Boelter specializes in adults and rehabilitation through hearing instruments and total communication systems—which means she uses a variety of treatments and tools to help her clients in their quest for good health. We sat down for an interview at the OHSU Soundsource office, where Dr. Boelter and other audiologists conduct hearing tests, examine ears, and fit clients for custom earplugs, in-ear monitors, and hearing aids. Thank you to the friends who suggested questions for this piece: Mindy Abovitz, Tyler Williams, Jeff Kirsch, Shanna Doolittle, Candace Hansen, Danielle Furfaro, Sally Garido Spencer, Rachel Blumberg, and Kathy Foster. 32


Lisa Schonberg: How do our ears work? Shelley Boelter: When we hear, sound goes in through your outer ear, and then bounces off the eardrum. The eardrum really is like a drum—it's a membrane. When sound hits it, the eardrum moves, and it moves these three little ear bones, the ossicles, and they articulate. On the end of the ossicles are the stapes (the hammer, anvil, and stirrup). The stapes push against the cochlea. The cochlea is considered the inner ear, and within the cochlea you have all these little tiny hair cells. Within that cochlea, all those little hair cells, each one represents a different pitch. They're like the different keys on a piano. Instead of having 88 keys in here, you have about 15,000 keys. When sound goes in, it is bouncing across those different keys to stimulate the nerve, to send the signal up to the brain. What happens inside our ears when we experience hearing loss? When we have a hearing loss, it can mean that we have dysfunction anywhere along this system. We classify the type of hearing loss based on where it’s happening. Those little hair cells are "tonotypically organized"—high pitch to low pitch—like a reverse piano. And so those high pitches are the ones that are hit first. [If you are exposed to loud sounds,] they end up getting bent over and weakened, so they’re not standing up straight, and so you need to hit them a little bit harder to get that signal sent up to the brain and to get them to fire. And then if the noise is loud enough, it can actually shear off that hair cell, and it doesn’t matter how hard you hit it, nothing will come through. ...and you're born with all the hair cells you'll ever have, and they don't grow back, right? Right. Not yet. We're still working on it. It's a ways away, but we're working on it. So the reason that high frequencies are damaged first is that they're at the beginning of the cochlea. Yep. Right, same with your auditory nerve—it is also tonotypically organized, from high to low frequency. As we age, high frequencies go first. The typical progression is usually very, very slow. What happens with hearing loss, when we're talking specifically about musicians, when we go to a concert these little guys, the hairs within the cochlea are working overtime. When you walk out and you feel like your ears are ringing, you’ve agitated these hairs. ...and so they might be a little bit bent. Right. But then they take about 16 hours to really come back. We call it a temporary threshold shift, and we hope that they come back. But if these [hairs] have been just beat down too much, and they don’t come back, it’s called a permanent threshold shift. What frequencies are most damaging to hearing, and how does volume affect that? It’s never just one frequency; each sound has a different pitch and intensity associated with it. In general, I would think [instead] about the loudness, and the amount of time you're in that loudness. What is the volume in here and how long am I going to be exposed to this? The louder it is, the less time you can be in that situation.

Cymbals resonate at higher frequencies than drums. A right-handed drummer sits with the hi-hat at their left. It’s pretty close to the left ear. Is their left ear more prone to damage due to these higher frequencies? It might be more of just that the hi-hat is so much closer to the ear. With drummers we see more of this asymmetrical hearing loss. They'll have more hearing loss on the side where the hi-hat is, because it's right there. Yeah, they'll often orient or lean themselves towards that left (hi-hat) side. Exactly. If a drummer is having issues adjusting and adapting to wearing earplugs, we'll talk about maybe protecting that left ear first, and put more protection of the left side and less protection on the right. What is the typical hearing loss with aging, for someone who is not exposing herself to loud music on a regular basis? What we'll usually see is a little bit of degradation in the high frequencies (humans can hear from 20 to 20,000 Hz). And so if there's no trauma, just the very high pitches will start to decline. With someone with noise exposure—we call it a noise notch—we will actually see a dip at 4,000 Hz. It gets wider and deeper as the damage continues. What other health issues affect hearing? Genetics has a component, as does overall health, including certain metabolic diseases, kidney issues, diabetes, smoking, and heart issues. It's not just usually one thing unless you know that you were standing next to a firecracker and “Boom!” it went off. There are some medications that are actually autotoxic. Some hardcore antibiotics can damage your hearing. If hearing is part of your profession, be more diligent about reading about side effects, and ask your physician if there are any side effects that might lead to ringing or hearing loss. There are a number of things that drummers put in or on our ears that I am curious about. Drummers are increasingly using in-ear monitors (IEMs). Are these a good idea in regards to hearing protection? I think an IEM is a better way to go [as compared to a wedge monitor], because you can control it. You know that you have to be making that decision to be cranking it up, whereas with the wedge, the sound guy controls how loud it is. IEMs are just a lot more controlled. You take impressions of the ears to make the monitor mold or you use the foam versions, and so you're sealing them and protecting your ears right off the bat. You’re not getting exposed to everything else around you, and then you’re deciding how loud you want to hear it. Also, you won’t have to play as loud, because with the wedge, you’re probably battling the sound and continually turning things up. You [can also get] an in-line sound level meter, so you can see how loud your IEM are. How much do IEMs cost? Five hundred to $3,000 is a good ballpark depending on the brand. Ultimate Ears is one of the big ones, but some people think they're uncomfortable because of the hard acrylic case. Sensaphonics carries the soft squishy IEMs. Here in [Portland], there's 1964 Ears. They started up pretty recently.

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HEALTH Drummers use a wide variety of ear protection. What is your opinion about the available options? Earplugs reduce the volume of what you’re being exposed to by providing a protective barrier. The little foam cheapy ones, the one size fits nobody ones, what they do is just muffle the sound—and it's not an equal reduction. What they end up doing is rolling off more of the high frequencies, so the clarity is missing. The clarity is all the trouble. So what we recommend is definitely investing at least in the Etymotic [or Hearos Brand] earplugs. They're about ten to fifteen bucks. If you're not sure, start with those, but if they're uncomfortable, invest in a solid pair of the custom [molded] musician plugs. These have a little filter in them, and the filter comes in different attenuation or volume reduction values [usually 9, 15, and 25 dB reductions]. Back to the hi-hat example: If a drummer had a set of custom plugs, they could possibly do a 25 dB [reduction] in the left ear and a 15 in the right ear. They can mix and match. If it's a quieter show, put in the 15s instead. They give you a lot more time. It's amazing how many drummers I know do not use any protection, and have never used any. It's scary. Yeah! One of the things I love—I am a nerd, so I have several sets of my own—is that [the custom plugs are] molded to your ear, so they will fit only your ear, and you can change out what you're getting based on your environment. They come in different colors, and some even glow in the dark. They can come on cords. And then another thing, these filters give a flat response, or flat reduction, so they don't roll off your high frequencies. And that's the magic of the filters. Instead of it being muffled, it’s just like you're reaching up and turning down the volume. And, actually, if you get into an environment that's really loud, you can hear better when you have these in. You can hear the music better than it just being over-driven. And, if someone is concerned about cosmetics and doesn't want them to show, we would do one of the discrete [models with a tiny filter]. Plan on $200250 for the pair, including the fitting. Are they typically covered by insurance? No, but people can use their FSAs (Flexible Spending Accounts) for them. What recommendations do you have as far as headphone use? Should we be mixing albums in speakers or headphones? It still comes down to the volume level you are being exposed to. For a lot of people they prefer headphones or in-ear headphones because they are isolating out more of the sound. You'd get a better sound quality on your side, and then you don’t have to turn it up as much to combat the environmental sounds. If you are mixing in a room that is totally controlled, going through speakers is fine as long as you are not turning it up to dangerous levels. The rule of thumb for headphones for iPods and other gadgets is the 80/90 rule. You can turn it up to 80 percent of the volume for 90 minutes. That's your exposure time. Anything above that and you need to shorten your time. And that’s independent of how much noise you’re being exposed to otherwise. Exactly. How much loud noise can we be exposed to before causing damage? NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) standards are more aggressive than OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health



Administration) standards, and they're what I really believe in. When you are exposed to 85 dB, you can be exposed to that for eight hours. Eightyfive dB is a busy street corner. Add three dB to that, and you have to cut your exposure time in half. Add three more dB, cut it in half again. With drums you're probably at 100,103, 109 dBs And so when you're exposed to that [level of noise] you can only be in there for 15 minutes before you start potentially creating damage. At 100 dB, you could be in there for fifteen minutes. So if we popped in some 9 dB earplug filters, you can be in there for two hours. You just gained yourself an hour and forty-five minutes. The foam ones usually reduce from 20-25 dB, if you're putting them in correctly. But with these custom earplugs, even with just the simple nine dB reduction, which is not what I'd recommend for a drummer, you're gaining yourself so much more time. If you put in the 25s you're taking yourself from 100 dB to 75 dB—you can be in there all day.

“THE EAR DRUM REALLY IS LIKE A DRUM” Where should drummers buy their custom earplugs? I would direct people to the Sensaphonics or AAA (American Academy of Audiology) websites [for lists of reputable audiologists]. If I find myself at a show without earplugs, I will just stick toilet paper in my ear. This is unfortunately the reality for many people I know. Am I getting any benefit from that? Technically, not really. I am sure there's some measurable something. Maybe a couple dB? Yeah, probably. [I was reading that] some drummers, if they are overprotective, can have wrist damage or strain because they can't [tell how hard they are playing]. I believe it. I know that I definitely play harder if I am wearing protection. But over time, I have become more conscious of it and try and compensate. It takes awhile to really adjust if you're just starting to use hearing protection. That would be another reason to look at getting the plugs with the different filters, so you could almost ease yourself into it. Ideally we want to talk about the 25 dBs for drummers, that's our gold standard number, because that will buy you as much time as you need.

Tom Tom staff member Candace Hansen asks, "If you've done nothing, and I mean nothing, to protect your ears after 15 years of drumming in punk bands, is there anything you can do as an adult to combat possible damage?" Yes, protect your ears (laughs)! Think of the little hair cells. Because once they're damaged they're more susceptible to [further] damage. Those little hair cells, they might be bent over now, but if you keep beating them they're gonna break off! So it's never too late. That can help preserve what she has, and it's gonna buy her a lot more time.

What hearing protection do you recommend for kids? For kids I would recommend the non-custom plugs, those little Etymotic plugs, because kids grow and their ears are changing. So every six months, we would be taking new molds. The Etymotic plugs cut 12 dB. My young students usually protect their ears with kids' headphones. Do you think those offer a good amount of protection? Yes, those are great too, 20-25 dB reduction. They come in all sorts of colors and cost about $26. Does earwax provide sound protection? Earwax is there as a protective mechanism. We do find that when a person is exposed to a lot of sound, they will generate more earwax. That might be why I have so much earwax! How often should musicians get their hearing checked? If they haven't had a baseline, [they should] get their hearing checked right away. If their hearing test comes out absolutely fine and normal, then every three to five years. If they have a hearing loss, then it should be more frequent, every year or every other year, to monitor the loss. I know a lot of drummers who accept tinnitus as a fact of life. What causes it? We don't know. We do know that it is not generated in the ear. It is generated in the brain. We still don't quite know what's truly causing it and that is why we can't cure it. But we are working very hard, especially our OHSU researchers up on the hill. It is generated in the brain, and it can be aggravated by medications, stress, hydration levels, caffeine, salt intake. Sometimes people stop all of that and still have it. [Often] when a person has tinnitus they will have a little bit of a hearing loss that comes with it. So tinnitus is a first warning

sign of hearing loss. There have been studies where people have actually gone in and totally severed the auditory nerve, and there'll be no hearing on that side, but the tinnitus is still there. Is there anything that can be done to reduce the ringing if you have it? It's kind of this loop that happens. [Tinnitus] has a big emotional component to it. If a person is really bothered by the ringing, their anxiety and stress levels can go up, and then that makes the tinnitus go up. Some people find acupuncture and meditation helpful. Another thing they can do is see if there's some sort of sound that can mask the ringing out. Try to stay out of complete silence. Have a fan running in the background, get a little noise machine or fountain. Some people have tinnitus that prevents them from falling asleep. Having a steady sound in the bedroom can help to mask it out. And then getting more sleep will reduce stress and thus reduce your levels of tinnitus. Exactly. We make ear level masking devices here. They look like little hearing aids and generate white or pink noise so that you are never in silence. It can be in the background and doesn't interfere with conversation. So adding sound to the system can help sometimes. General Hearing Instruments or Widex have really good resources on their websites describing their masking products. Is there hope for finding a cure for tinnitus? The V.A. (U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs) and the world's largest hearing research facility, the National Center for Rehabilitative Research (NCRAR) just came out with this electromagnetic stimulation treatment that is super promising, and they just started doing more studies with it.

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BEAT MUSIC / MARK GUILIANA JAZZ QUARTET / MEHLIANA He weaves the time-tested fundamentals of jazz with modern electronic beats and takes music to places it’s never been before. Many are satisfied with playing music, while others are driven to redefine it—eliminating barriers and inspiring the creativity of a generation. Since 1883, Gretsch has been building the finest American-made drums for players who understand that in order to play “That Great Gretsch Sound,” you have to earn it.







T H E H E A LT H I S S U E Questions by Mindy Abovitz with introductions by Liz Tracy Illustrations by the talented Jenny Mörtsell

Remember The Man with Two Brains? Steve Martin’s character in this 1983 sci-fi comedy telepathically falls for a disembodied brain. While this seems like a natural bummer and a hindrance to any real intimacy, it’s also sort of liberating. If you’re just your brain, you don’t have to deal with joint pain or tinnitus or brushing your teeth—the tedious things in life.

There are so many ways in which our bodies can become damaged and, then again, more ways they can be healed. We are, at times, at war with our bodies and, at others, we find them to be a sanctuary, a place of peace. We asked drummers we admire—rising stars and those with long careers—to offer insight into how to stay healthy or regain mental and physical strength after trying times.

In reality, we are all fated to spend our time here on Earth living in pesky but fascinating bodies. This issue, Tom Tom chose the theme of Health, because as drummers, we face not only the typical wear-and-tear of time, but benefits and complications specific to the craft. This includes being powerful and strong, but also ears that are vulnerable to damage and hands prone to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. It means being careful to protect not only our physiques but also our minds, especially when on tour and generally for the long haul.

They kindly shared their powerful stories, which include challenges and triumphs. They wrote about being committed to a strenuous but strengthening act and keeping their bodies fit for the future, so that they can continue to do the thing they love most: drum. We scratched the surface of maintaining, losing, and experiencing health for drummers. Let’s keep this dialogue going and give each other tips online at

MOTHER DRUMMER Argentine percussionist Andrea Alvarez didn’t let the trials of pregnancy or motherhood keep her from her kit.


uring the 1980s, I was in my twenties and living in New York. I asked my drum teacher, Kenwood Dennard, which was the best physical activity for a drummer. Yoga maybe? The Alexander Technique? “In order to play drums, the thing that works best is to play drums,” he sagely related.

The body needed to focus on just one thing: the baby.

I never had physical issues that prevented me from playing, not tendinitis or tensions. But I’ve always kept practicing and searching for better techniques. I remain always aware of how to relax my body and register key spots as so not to generate unnecessary tension in my body. My life was completely normal until something big came up; I got pregnant. As an independent woman, I wanted everything to remain as if nothing was out of the ordinary, because, in fact, being pregnant is pretty normal. But the body does change so much that it becomes impossible to ignore the shifts. I stopped playing just a week before going into labor. I couldn’t play live anymore, and at some point, it was impossible to ignore this reality. The body needed to focus on just one thing: the baby. It was hard to start playing again. Breastfeeding takes lots of energy, and I was personally disorientated. I lost all kinds of coordination, focus, and muscle tone. I had to start practicing little-by-little with the help of a teacher to be able to focus on my practice. Taking care of my son was consuming all of my time. In less than a year, everything was like it used to be except that I was permanently tired. Now in my fifties, my body is changing again—an issue very particular to women. The bones, joints, and muscles all lose strength thanks to huge hormonal shifts that come with menopause. Another life occurrence that affected me mentally was watching my parents age and taking care of them too. For the first time, my body went into shock because of the stress. I practically couldn’t walk for a while due to a back pain that affected my meniscus. I checked with many specialists that advised me to rest. I didn’t get any helpful results until one physical therapist saved me. He recommended plenty of activity, going to the gym, and focusing on gaining muscle strength. He also told me to play drums a lot: The more practice, fewer chances of injury. “You play with the energy of a 20-year-old,” he said after watching me perform. “But you’re in your fifties. You have to train in order to be in a physical condition that allows you to realize this energy. You have to take the training as seriously as you take the practice and prioritize two things: instrument practice and muscle training.” A year after, I am recovered and stay fit with a weight-lifting, spinning, and FitBALL routine. When we sit in front of our drums, we should focus on our wishes. When we are with the music (or with whatever we decide to face in life) we are also alone with ourselves. This is not being selfish. As women, we are trained to always be there for other people, and that’s how we lose ourselves. It’s worth noting that being a musician from a Latin American country, I find myself with plenty of unique difficulties—economic, social, and political—that generate emotional instability. Our issues don’t matter. The moment we encounter the instrument has to be a magical ritual. We have to respect it no matter what happens on the outside.

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THE SOBER ROAD New York City-based drummer, singer, and composer Allison Miller drew her own sober touring map


lean living is the key to my physical and mental health. There is no way I could still be a touring musician if I partied like I did in my twenties. I would have burnt out. Being sober enables me to stay positive and focus on my mental and physical wellbeing, even while on the road. And we all know road life is not ideal for living healthfully. I began on my tour bus adventures when I was 21. I was wild, and I got a thrill out of working hard and playing hard. I had boundless enthusiasm for all things pleasure-based and the energy to keep up with my wants. I had a damn good time. I don’t regret any of it. But by the age of 25, I started feeling the effects of my indulgences. Work lulled, I felt depressed, my relationship fell apart, my confidence turned into arrogance. Also, I felt lack-lustre about music, and my drumming started to get sloppy. I was no longer that cute tipsy girl. I became that annoying, aggressive drunk who wanted a fight. After some scary wake up calls, I decided to get sober. Since age 30, I have been. Surprisingly, sobriety has brought be so much joy, and I enjoy touring more than ever. I have developed new, healthy habits on the road that help me stay mentally and physically fit. First and foremost, it is important to establish a routine while on the road. I always eat breakfast and start the day right. I find that I get low blood sugar if I skip it, then the rest of the day is a struggle. Ideally, after



my very important coffee fix, I hit the gym and get a little exercise. Even the slightest increase in heart rate helps release endorphins, immediately improving my mental and physical state. If a crazy travel schedule prevents me from hitting the gym, I go for a walk after lunch or dinner. I love walking. It gets the heart rate going and helps clear my head. Walking is also a great way to check out a new city. Sometimes the schedule on the road is so crazy there isn’t even time for a walk. Being creative and writing music always makes me feel better. So, no matter where I am, I can pull out my laptop, stick in my ear buds, open up GarageBand, and start creating. Connection to my loved ones helps keep me grounded as well. I make it a priority to call home once a day. There is nothing more joyful than getting some FaceTime with my sweet daughter, Josie. It's also important for me to stay in touch with my fellow sober friends. Finally, my mental wellbeing is very anchored to my musical wellbeing. There are a couple of very basic technical drumming exercises I do on a regular basis. In doing them routinely, I maintain confidence, steadiness, focus, clarity, and intention from the drum throne. I practice simple 8th note and 16th note patterns, one hand at a time, with the metronome. Then I practice Alan Dawson’s legendary “Rudimental Ritual.” And, if I have time, I end with playing along to one of my favorite recordings. This always reminds me of my love for drumming—and my love for drumming is one of the healthiest addictions I know.

his joy or discomfort— all show the music or lack of music in his life


omposer, producer, singer/songwriter, and Los Angeles native, Low Leaf, was born with the name Angelica Lopez. Deeply connected to the Earth and trees, at 18, she rechristened herself with the very visual and arboreal moniker. The Filipino talent started playing classical piano at eight, and now combines her skills on the keys with her talents as a harpist and guitarist with electronic beats. She said her 2011 Chrysalis debut “was created while searching for an authentic frequency within. I was using music to lose myself, to find my voice, and discover a sound to call my own within the cocoon of my musical universe.” And most certainly, Low Leaf has blossomed into a butterfly with five additional releases including 2014’s AKASHAALAY—“a vibratory offering” to her familial homeland—and last year’s Diwata Mantraz vol. 1: Purification, a meditative journey of free-form instrumentals. She shared a quote by Sufi founder Hazrat Inayat Khan with Tom Tom and explained why this keeps her focused and healthy.

"Music is the miniature of the whole harmony of the universe, for the harmony of the universe is music itself, and man, being the miniature of the universe, must show this same harmony. In his pulsation, in the beat of his heart, and in his vibration he shows rhythm and tone, harmonious or inharmonious chords. His health or illness, his joy or discomfort—all show the music or lack of music in his life”—Hazrat Inayat Khan


His health or illness,

Six years ago, this passage shifted my path in a way that opened up a portal within me, allowing music from higher realms to flow forth. I began to look at my life as if it were a song. I began to perceive even the most painful experiences that I wanted to bury away as a beautiful dissonance that gradually found their way to resolution through the inevitable growth one experiences throughout time. Every day became a new measure, and I wanted my entire being and life to emit a song of the highest harmony through holistic health. From my thoughts to the food I consumed to my relationships, my intentions, and my actions—everything was being guided by the idea of living my life as music. And this music, is ultimately, an offering to the creator, the author, the true musician of this universal song. The power of a thought can truly give birth to new life. When we begin to hear the patterns of breath as rhythm, we can realize the power of choice we have to color each day with musical life elements. So in this same way that we can live our lives as song, each of us are also individual notes in other people’s lives and all of creation itself. Understanding this, we can learn to dance, sing, and drum through the ever-changing music of life, with the utmost joy and surrender that every true musician experiences.

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GOTTA HAVE THAT FUNK The Nth Power’s Nikki Glaspie talks about the true healing power of music.


unk-loving drummer Nikki Glaspie is currently releasing solo work and exploring her love of the genre with her band The Nth Power. She also tours with like-minded New Orleans bands like Dumpstaphunk and The Neville Brothers. Her soulful delivery comes from playing drums at church, with her mother on keys, starting at age eight. After attending Berklee College of Music, she played with Ceelo and Me’Shell Ndgeocello. The list of huge acts she’s augmented with her rhythms is absurdly long. So, we can just add in Chaka Kahn, Beyonce, Jay-Z, Kanye West, and even George Michael right here. She spoke with Tom Tom about her fear of aging,the power of intention, and shared an incredible story about how one of The Nth Power’s songs helped heal a comatose woman. Tom Tom: What is one physical challenge you’ve met with as a musician? How did you overcome it? Nikki Glaspie: I have a calcium deposit in my hand that has accumulated over time from how hard I hit the snare. It's something that will get smaller with time and proper care. I had to change my diet because starch feeds it. How did it affect your practice? It hasn't affected my practice. It only hurts when pressure is applied, and, of course, applying pressure by massage is the only way to get rid of it. Do you have a health fear related to drumming? The only health fear I have relating to drumming is getting old. Everyone knows that when you get older you start to lose strength. Drumming is an extremely physical activity. So to combat that, I try to stay as physically active as possible. It hasn't affected my practice because I'm not old yet. [Laughs.]



Do you have a daily routine that keeps your body and mind in check that you could share? Not particularly. I try to meditate and eat well, but I don't have a routine because my life isn't routine. I fit it in where I can because my schedule is so erratic. Although, I speak positive things on the daily. I say what I am obtaining. Just like that sentence. I didn't say, "I say what I am trying to obtain," I am not trying, because I am stating that I am doing it. Can you share one memory of a time when music really helped you feel healthier or maybe when you observed music make someone around you feel better? Just recently a fan of The Nth Power came to a show and told us an incredible story. His mother had an accident and was put in a medically induced coma. The doctors said she had a 40 percent chance of waking up and a 20 percent chance of walking if she woke up. He said he played her the single off of our new record Abundance, called “Right Now.” The lyrics are: ”Right now/No need for hesitation it's a brand new situation/Make your move and don't look back/Right now/ Celebrate what you've been given/This life is so worth living/Right now.” He said right when the chorus played, "Celebrate what you've been given/This life is so worth living," she opened her eyes. Not only did she wake up from the coma, but she is walking. Music is powerful, and I am grateful to be a vessel!

Music is powerful, and I am grateful to be a vessel! I S S U E 2 5 : T H E H E A LT H I S S U E




STRONGER THAN EVER How innovative percussionist Robyn Schulkowsky became a better teacher after facing the horrors of Lyme Disease.

The tick hooked up with me during a simple Sunday walk in the woods. The symptoms were confusing and atypical. Diagnosing the disease, Lyme neuroborreliosis, took way too long. As the disease progressed, I developed acute and constant pain in my neck. Shoulder and knee inflammation made dressing a dreaded and painful experience. My left eye wavered between light and dark. This prohibited accurate readings of the three scores I was preparing for premiere presentations in Cologne, Donaueschingen, and Salzburg. Worse was that I was losing use of my left arm. After too many visits to emergency rooms, appointments at Lyme centers, and with doctors who wanted only to put me in the hospital, I found one physician who did not accuse me of being hysterical. I believe others did because I am a woman and an artist. This doctor was familiar with the disease and its unusual and individual progressions. He loved his work and understood what it means to be passionate about one's vocation, one's calling. I was not an easy patient. The prospect of never being able to drum again hovered there like a big dark cloud. I kept it just out of my sight. Strangely, I continued performing. With each physical loss, my mind helped me create a way around the problem. When the nerves stopped sending the messages to my hand and fingers, I used my forearm. When the forearm ceased responding, I found a way to use my biceps and triceps. I slightly resembled a chicken attempting flight. The thing is, even though it was technically impossible to continue drumming, I kept playing. My wonderful Swiss doctor—I did have to go all the way to Switzerland— diagnosed and treated the condition. My friend Eva, an acupuncture and yin shiatsu genius helped me recover my body, helped teach the nerves to reconnect. Nerves send signals, electric impulses, vibrations. The nerves, like the snares on a drum, vibrate with each other. I think about the sounds my nerves are sending. I think about the sounds I create with my instruments.

These thoughts all helped the trainer push me through the month of therapy necessary to teach my body to notice everything about what it does, to notice itself again, teaching muscles through repetition to stimulate the dormant connection to the nerves. Very slowly, I was able to use my wrist, my fingers. The pain subsided in my knees. I could lift and swing my arms.

The thing is, even though it was technically impossible to continue drumming, I kept playing. Still, I was terrified the little Lyme bacteria would return. In fact it still could. I was at the top of my game, technically. I kept saying, "I don't need this." Because of all the special attention I paid to the needs the body has to work to make music with the drums, I have become a better coach, a better teacher. I can guide my students through difficult technical moves: where to put the weight that controls the marvels of sound, the amazing pallet we drummers can evoke with our instruments. The way we stand and sit and balance our limbs is part of the wonder of the sounds we can produce. Now, almost 20 years down the road, there is only a tiny hook still in my left-hand upstroke. I am so lucky to be making the music I love.

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FINDING ORDER IN THE CHAOS Advice from Young Galaxy’s Andrea Silver


his year marks my twenty years as a drummer. My childhood started out with classic extracurricular activities like karate, girl guides, and the swim team, all of which ran their course and eventually ended in my early teens. When my father brought home two tom drums from the high school he taught at thinking one of his kids might get a five-minute kick out of them, I don’t think he was prepared when I announced that I subsequently needed to get a full drum set. I totally recognize that I was lucky to have such supportive parents with forgiving ears and immense patience. They also acknowledged the timing of my new “hobby” in relation to their getting divorced, although I didn’t put the two events together for a very long time. Listening to Green Day cassettes and playing along as best I could just made me happy, and that was that.

There’s also the battle of wondering whether or not you’ve chosen the easiest career path. Money is always a top contender in the list of concerns for many musicians. Once you realize that the sheer joy you usually get out of pursuing your passion is sometimes compromised by financial stress, it’s important to make an assessment of how you’re approaching things. Yes, I’ve lost jobs, but I’ve also had some very cool bosses who have given me a chance despite my constant unavailability.

It was when my sister remarked on how my unpredictable temper slowly dissipated with this new growing interest that I realized it was also a healthy and rewarding outlet. It continues to be to this day. As I transitioned from playing drums in my dad’s basement to forming a band, playing shows and touring, my love for this instrument and my gratitude for each experience never faded.

What I’ve noticed is that communicating clearly with the people that are involved in your budding career is really the only way to relieve what can be some pretty extreme stress. Whether it’s a boss, your family, partners, or friends, your life affects them too. You start to learn that they just want to help and support you even if it means not seeing you as often as they’d like and sometimes having to pay the tab.

However, as with anything, the extreme highs come with the occasional lows. I have had to learn how to process those less favorable moments.

The happiness I associate with these couple of decades as a drummer is like no other. I wonder what else I would be doing if I had given up a long time ago, for one reason or another. It goes without saying that I’d be a fool to let the hardships get the best of me. This really is what I’m meant to do. Although karate master was a pretty solid runner-up.

There’s an odd phenomenon that occurs the second you step inside that clown car of a touring vehicle. You subject yourself to living conditions that any responsible adult tries to avoid. It’s suddenly OK to eat gas station food every meal and water is often replaced with beer. Personal space is a thing of the past, and you realize that you actually can get tired of fart jokes as well as the people that make them. 48

I’ve pushed myself to recognize that eliminating some of these habits and taking a step back from constant socializing can make or break your experience on the road. I’ve learned that the pressure from those around you to be a part of every single moment is unintentional and not mandatory. You’re free to make your own choices and everyone around you will respect that.



My health motto has been: Eat well, work hard, good laugh and good sleep‌ And a good pilates teacher helps, too. I S S U E 2 5 : T H E H E A LT H I S S U E


LIGHTING THE WAY Big Joanie’s Chardine Taylor-Stone found ways to heal her depression with black feminist thought and music


hroughout my life, I have struggled with my mental health. In trying to obtain solace, I found that both music and black feminist philosophies saved me by showing the importance of being honest with my feelings. This is a comforting narrative that you may have seen elsewhere. Becoming conscious of how the white supremacist patriarchy affects us as black women can result in a rage that is all-consuming. Many of us are pained and angry. We feel disempowered, and that affects our mental health. We must empower ourselves to be survivors in this world so we can fight back. Either by playing drums in a band, writing, singing, or creating pottery. A focused and creative practice can become a form of healing mindfulness. Although the great canon of black feminism can often spark something in me that leads me down the path of knowing myself, all the inspirational Audre Lorde memes I see in my newsfeed do not stop me from wanting to bury myself -- exhausted and overwhelmed -- in darkness for days. Social media serves up feminism in easily digestible sound bites. But like fast food, memes are memes, and this postmodern capitalist friendly rhetoric does not provide enough nourishment to pull me out of my blues. The notion or expectation that we can be fixed with a few “likes,” retweets, and shares has left us isolated with ephemeral feminism and cursory politics. But by building confidence in my creativity and seeing it as something of value, the writings of black feminists and womanists are not antidotes but springboards from which I can dive into the seemingly incredible task of changing my relationship with my depression. When I experienced my first serious bout of depression, my general practitioner referred me to adult education courses at the local community college. I chose a six-week singing class. On my first visit to



my tutor, we raged at the forthcoming cutting of the program by the local council. But we also discussed how others had benefitted from the courses. She told me that one student, a housewife, had become so exasperated by her life that she thought she had nothing of interest to say, that her life was boring. This led her to feel isolated and depressed to the point of contemplating suicide. She signed up to the pottery class where her confidence grew. She felt she had something that she could talk about and is currently looking for her own pottery studio. Although my mental health did deteriorate again after my six-week course, what I took away was an invaluable idea: By doing something creative, no matter how small, I will gain a grounded sense of self, one that exists away from my insecurities. A couple of years later, I joined punk band Big Joanie, one that emphasizes black feminism in its music. This finally was an opportunity to express myself fully as person. Almost like meditation, after band practice my mind often feels clear. Playing gives me time away from my own thoughts, and I cherish and value that time. I’m still an awkward black girl wanting to emulate her favorite bands that she was often shamed for liking, but my current endeavors help me find strength by bringing together the two things that helped me manage my mental health issues: black feminist philosophies and music. My feminism needs to be practical and real; it needs to be more than a tweet, Tumblr post, or meme. It must help me survive away from the computer screen when I’m just left with my own thoughts. I accept that my mind, body, and spirit are in a constant state of flux and being in Big Joanie is part of my process of acceptance. I am a long way from knowing and loving myself but that’s OK. The journey isn’t over.

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COMMUNITY HEALING Drumming helps Zahra Tehrani manage her anger and help others manage theirs with the Young Women’s Music Project. by Sabrina Chap




here is a woodblock print by the Japanese artist Hokusai, “The Great Wave off Kanagawa.” It captures an entire rogue wave in one single frame, frozen in a tumultuous arc, about to crash. There is a stillness and calm in the rage of that print that echoes the power of 27-year-old drummer, beatmaker, performer, and overall powerhouse, Zahra Tehrani. She has amplified her practice by acting as the director of the Young Women’s Music Project (YWMP). The organization aims to empower and liberate young women across Oxfordshire, United Kingdom, where she lives, by providing a safe space for them to make music together, learn new skills, express themselves, and grow their confidence. Cutting-edge artistic and musical gender empowerment projects are also part of YWMP’s agenda. I first met Tehrani back in 2011 when I performed and lectured about my book, Live Through This: On Creativity and Self-Destruction, for YWMP kids. In that small photography studio, Tehrani welcomed the shy teenagers, making them feel comfortable as I spoke about suicide, anorexia, and other forms of self-destruction. Recently, Tehrani and I connected on the importance of drums and music making in the balance of mental health and the importance of amplifying young people’s voices in the racially and economically divided city of Oxford.

How and when did you start drumming? I was 14, angry, and I wanted a way to express myself. I used to play on the dinner table at home and was pretty good at it. My dad managed to get a drum kit for £20. It was lying under some rich person’s dinner table and they wanted rid of it. How many bands have you been in since? At least 15. My most serious band was Baby Gravy, a supergroup of local young musicians making post-punk electronica, which I started when I was 17. Why drums? I see it as a form of anger management. That’s why it was important for me as a young person and now. I have a lot of pent-up rage. When I play, I completely release that in the space of ten minutes. The ritual of hitting the shit out of something and making an awesome rhythmical sound: There’s no feeling better than that for me. I always try to show the bands I work with how important a drum kit is and how they command so much power, even if they’re sat behind a bunch of drums on a stool. What led you to begin teaching and helping others? I started accessing a little studio in Oxford called Ark-T. While I was there, I met this amazing woman named Kate Garrett who taught me loads of cool stuff – music theory, interesting drum beats, information about the industry, and things I could do in my music. Kate started the Young Women’s Music Project to get more young women into music and she invited me to train with her on YWMP when I was 16. Kate passed away six years ago. The work she did wasn’t over yet and her legacy needed to live on. I’ve been running YWMP ever since. Why do you do it? I’m a product of YWMP, so the least I can do is give back and help others. There were things going on in my childhood, and I didn’t understand if they were right or wrong. If I didn’t have Kate to give me a safe space to make music in to channel those feelings, I don’t know what I’d be doing. It’s given me meaning in my work.

Why do you think it’s important to not only book performers, but give a safe space to talk about things like suicide and depression? A lot of the young people I work with are going through therapy, are on the route out of psychiatric wards, or have experienced trauma. For them to see that loads of other creative people have gone through similar things makes them feel like they aren’t alone. Are there other things you’ve presented that address mental health? Oxford Rape Crisis has come to talk about consent and what support is there for them. A lot of them weren’t aware of that. Mental health comes out when people are writing lyrics and expressing themselves -- how they are thinking and feeling. If something is worrying, I do something about it, such as getting them therapy or reporting it. You’ve talked to me about how having a place for these young people to go is important because they don’t have an outlet. A lot of them have said to me, “Working with you has changed my life.” They have no alternative space or support to express themselves apart from in the sessions. Having someone that listens and cares has an impact. Especially in Oxford! I remember the first time I went there, it seemed like a charmed city. It is painted as this pristine tower of academia, but then you spoke to me about the underbelly of class and racial divide that no one talks about. There’s the university and loads of wealth, yet Oxford has the second highest homeless rate in the country. You can understand how some people can get lost without work and training. Musically, it’s come up with bands like Radiohead, Foals, Supergrass, and Ride. Most of those bands are from white middle class backgrounds and this privilege inevitably plays a part in success. The music scene is primarily folk and indie and it’s quite male dominated, and most of the shows are restricted to over 18. There’s not much opportunity for those young kids who are writing music to showcase besides what I provide through YWMP. What is the effect of running this on your own mental health? It has been difficult at times. You take it on. But you’re a human being at the end of the day. You have to put boundaries up. But finding a safe space for yourself to offload it helps. What’s it like running the project while being a mother? It feels impossible, but I still manage somehow. I think it shows people that you have to make it work. And people need to try and understand a little more about the fact that you have a running screaming toddler and get used to it. It inspires me differently. All the music I’m making revolves around parenthood because it’s what I spend most of my time doing. Hopes for the future? YWMP is an organization I care deeply about. Anytime I’m working on it, I relearn who I am and the power of my own voice. Anything that allows young people to feel validated makes them feel like they can hold any place of power in the world. We can get a lot from amplifying the voices of young people. The best way for change to happen is to listen to our youth.

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ON BEING HUMAN: Pioneering percussionist Valerie Naranjo offers tips on living the best life possible.


y first gyil teacher in Ghana, Baaru, once told me, "You are a human being, and human beings are great." I believe great human beings do not worry about what they are not. Being healthy is about believing in yourself, in your humanity. This has nothing to do with accomplishments, experience, education or lack thereof. The fact that you love drums and are "on the path," already means that you have something cool and unique to offer the planet. The best way to believe in yourself is to take care of yourself. When I was younger, I felt that if I took care of myself, I wouldn't have energy to take care of anyone else. So I "self-sacrificed.” This led me to deal with my deep inner resentment about feeling neglected. Thankfully, that time is over. When you look at nature, you don't see much "self sacrifice." The trees are being the best trees. The streams are simply the best streams, and they nurture the trees through their inherent nature. Everything is in abundance and “happy.” Give yourself permission to become a centered self— physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually balanced. Then you can go out there and encourage a lot of other people. Taking care of your physical health is key. I drink a lot of water because water is a healer. It washes away some of the junk that I take in throughout the day—germs, muscle stress, bad food. I work out, either skiing or jogging or at the gym when I'm in New York City. I try to eat food that is good for me. Yes, I like junk food, but I try to limit it. I enlist help from experts. Right now, I have a trainer who is teaching me how to work from my center of balance.



Take care of your spiritual health. As a Nichiren Buddhist, I get up every morning and "clean house" for my life, my head, and emotional make-up. I deal with my fears, my resentments, my "How am I ever gonna do all of this?!?" thoughts, the "I'm just tired and want a break, but can't have one just now!” feelings. When I go to the practice studio or a gig, I've been able to bring my life up to 100 percent. Naturally, issues arise, but thanks to my practice, I can move ahead without carrying a lot of baggage on my daily journey. Take care to build and keep healthy relationships. Call your mom, or send her a card if she's a lot to handle on the phone. If your mate doesn't understand your time commitment, try to share your day in a way that makes them comfortable. Most importantly, create the time for fun, without putting yourself under pressure. Something I’m still working on! Your life has lots of fire when you are creating something, and you will totally inspire others.

The best way to believe in yourself is to take care of yourself. I S S U E 2 5 : T H E H E A LT H I S S U E


Around The Clock


id you ever wonder who gives Beyonce the beat for her bounce? It’s drummer and singer/songwriter Venzella Joy Williams, the young musician from Buffalo, New York, who always knew she’d be playing for Queen Bey. Since actually landing this finest of gigs, she played the FLOTUS’s 50th birthday party and took to the road for the On The Run and the Mrs. Carter tours.

✗ Running is the first thing that I do in the morning. Generally, I try to do some type of physical exercise everyday, whether it be running or walking. Both for me are therapeutic, so it helps to strengthen and shape me physically while clearing my mind.

Venzella, who’s at the top of her game, gave Tom Tom the rundown on her daily routine with details on how she keeps it together while moving full steam ahead.

✗ After that, I go to the practice room and shred drums. I like having my mind clear before practicing. It allows for the creativity to flow even more.

✗ After, I pray and read scripture.

✗ Towards the evening is when I like to work on writing and production. I try to incorporate some of the rhythms and pattern ideas that I've worked on in my practice time and translate it to production. ✗ Before going to bed, I create or listen to a playlist that I made and go to sleep listening to music. All of those things help to keep my mind, body, and soul in check.




On her Toolbox


vant-garde drummer Susie Ibarra has not only been recognized for her innovative drumming feats by the music community, but also by those in the visual arts. This past summer and fall, the 2014 TEDSenior Fellow and faculty member at Bennington College was commissioned to work on a sound installation, “Mirrors and Water,” for Chinese artist Ai WeiWei at the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, Wyoming. Throughout her long, impressive career she has recorded as a solo artist and with musicians such as Sean Lennon, Prefuse 73, and Yo La Tengo. Ibarra has not only stretched genres, she also crosses cultures and explores the natural world with her work as a composer, performer, and humanitarian. She shared an experience of healing from an injury that affected her drumming. ✗ Once I strained a muscle in my wrist during a yoga class. I had to go on tour after that for almost an entire fall. I would go to acupuncturists, use heat pads, play with wrist bands when I was drumming. ✗ It was not able to heal until I finally could rest and completely take a break. For a long time, even when it was raining and wet, I would feel the pain in that spot. Finally, after many years, it went away. I had to be mindful of the injury and mindful of my physical exercises and practices.

I had to be mindful of the injury and mindful of my physical exercises and practices.

✗ [These days,] I practice a warm-up of sticking exercises on the drum pad each day and prior to a concert. I also do a sitting meditation, pilates workout, and stretching. I S S U E 2 5 : T H E H E A LT H I S S U E


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HUMAN MACHINES MOST OF US DRUMMERS AND PERCUSSIONISTS HAVE A LOVE-HATE REL ATIONSHIP WITH THE DRUM MACHINE. Its perfectly, imperfect function has most definitely put a few of us out of work, while allowing producers the convenience of creating songs all day long for a low price. But, I haven’t witnessed too many of us who didn’t think a drum machine was fun once we tried it! As a matter of fact, you’ll probably land an important gig if you do know how to use one. There comes a point where, “If you can’t beat ‘em, program ‘em!”


There are tons of different types of drum machines on the market. Some are simple and others are very complicated. The one to purchase depends on the reason you need it, whether for live on stage or to produce beats in the studio. There are gigs where you may need to trigger loops or one-shots. A one-shot typically is a sound that you only need to play once, particularly when you hit the drum pad. It can be a chord, kick, snare, vinyl scratch, orchestral hit or other sounds and effects. One-shots typically aren’t tempo based sounds. You hit the pad, the sound plays and then it’s over. Loops can be a sound or sample that you need to play over and over again after you hit the drum pad once. When you load your drum pad with either one, you need to make sure you set the polyphony. Polyphony is the number of sounds that you can play simultaneously. In the case of the drum pad, if you hit a pad more than once, its sound will overlap. The number of times it will overlap depends on the number you set with the polyphony. In most cases, you can set a single pad to a certain polyphonic number or a whole group of pads. So essentially, you can play several one-shots on top of each other so that they are layered. With some machines, you can program different one-shots on the same pad so that when you play one pad, you hear several sounds playing together. You may need to adjust the volume and velocity of each sound so that they blend to your liking.


Usually, while working with loops, you have to do pre-production legwork. Loops will play at a certain tempo. If you’re playing live and hit a pad to trigger its loop, the loop could possibly be slower or faster than you’re playing. So, a lot of drummers will play with a click track.


Awesome! I knew you were asking for more complications. So, you need to set the tempo for the song or songs on which you are triggering your loops. With some drum machines, you can send a click track (or metronome) to your headphones. The idea is that the drummer and any other musician on stage can hear the click but the audience will not. Not all drum machines can do this. If you’re using a laptop, you can use a DAW to send a click track through. I have used Native Instrument’s Maschine with Pro Tools. The main thing is that you are able to hear the click because you can easily speed up a tiny bit and cause a disaster on stage once you trigger your loop. In-ear monitors are best, while using a wedge monitor is least preferred. One way to avoid a tempo disaster is by programming a sequence on your drum machine. Essentially, it’s the same as playing with an entire track or song like when you are in the studio recording. This way, you’re playing along with a track you created. A possible disadvantage of doing this can be that you can’t solo an extra 16 bars if you’re really feeling it.



by JoVia Armstrong

I used the word possible because this really depends on how much of a geek you are. If you’re like some production geeks, you’d actually program your drum machine so that you could manipulate the entire sequence. You can hit a pad to trigger an entire section of a song as a loop. For example, on the MPC, Maschine, Ableton Live and others, while you are playing live on stage in the verse, you can trigger the chorus, or a bridge or any other section to start automatically. The cool thing is that it will change from section to section at tempo. If you hit that trigger on beat two, your drum machine will wait until that bar completes beats 3 and 4 before seamlessly switching to the next section.


We should mention that some software programs like Ableton Live has created a way for the software to follow your tempo live. Yes, the machine follows the lead of the humanoid. In this case, you aren’t concentrating so hard on being locked tight to the machine’s click track or metronome—which some feel can be too mechanical. You still need to know the song form of course.



Last but certainly not least, we have to mention a very important feature in synthesis called an envelope. But, in regard to this article about drummers who program drums, the ADSR Envelope. It contains four elements: Attack, Decay, Sustain, and Release. The easiest way to describe what the ADRS does is to say that it shapes the dynamics of your sounds. It is very useful when shaping your kicks, snares, hi-hats, and samples. I like to use it in conjunction with the EQ although EQ-ing normally is a function that you get to after your sounds are produced, and in many cases, after the entire song has been produced. But, it’s important to understand that while the EQ shapes frequencies, the ADSR shapes the dynamics. Think of the Attack of the ADSR as the difference between using a wood beater or a felt beater on your kick drum. The wood beater gives you more of an Attack, punch or “smack” sound against the head while with the felt beater you hear more of the thump which doesn’t necessarily allow you to hear the beater hit the head. If you are producing an 808 kick, it is very thick on the low end and has a lot of sustain. You can tweak the sustain of the kick using ADSR to be short or long. For a real kick drum, sustain typically depends on shape and size of the drum and the head. The Decay and Release are a little harder to explain relating to an acoustic drum because the note of a drum is more of a staccato note. So, I’ll use a keyboard or wind instrument instead. With Decay, it expresses how fast a note will “die” down after you press a key or drum pad. It’s kind of like the moment you strongly blow into a trumpet and the moment you start to lose air pressure. From that point, how long you hold the note is its sustain discussed above. And once you take your finger off the key or drum pad, the note will either stop completely or you will still hear the note. How long you want to hear that note after you take your finger off the button or drum pad is the release. You can set the sound to stop immediately or for very long lengths. There’s a lot more that can be said here but these are the basics you should know about drum machines before you even get into making a song or taking one on the road. They have many other capabilities and complications as well, but learning more just depends on how much info you can absorb before getting a headache. Happy programming!

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by Janet Weiss


Surely you’ve seen Sleater-Kinney superfans sporting “Janet F’ing Weiss” T-shirts at a show or even at your gym. Weiss first played with the band in 1996, and is well-known for being one of the finest rock drummers ever. She’s also worked with other bands like Quasi, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, and the Shins. She has her own individual, nontraditional style of mapping out the drum notations for songs. Check out how Weiss ravages her vintage Ludwig kit.



Keep your body safe with these easy warm-up exercises. Warming up before a gig is terribly underestimated and can result in long term damage! When possible, spend 10 to 20 minutes warming up with rudiments and sticking exercises, by doing this you'll be very loose when you’re ready to play.


Try these simple exercises as 8th or 16th notes and alternate the sticking to various patterns. Kick

Floor Tom Snare


HH foot



Tom 2

Tom 1








HH foot


Floor Tom Snare

Tom 2

Tom 1

by Vanessa Dominique


Partir Self-released / September 2015


Nosebleed Weekend Suicide Squeeze Records / April 2016


Possession Riff Rock Records / March 2016

Never heard of Edith Crash? Listen to “Perdue La After 10 years of setting a formidable path out VŌDŪN has memorably electrified me with its ripFoi.” That would be a good start. Edith Crash’s new of the humble approach to starting a band with- ping guitar, soulful vocals, and powerful drumming. record lands somewhere between a francophile out even knowing how to play an instrument, the I was transported into another dimension of AfriDevil Makes Three album and a Feist single if she women of The Coathangers are back again with their can soul and electric waves reminiscent of Monlived in Lisbon. Already internationally known, (and fifth album, Nosebleed Weekend. It is a mixture of terey Pop 1967. There are Vodun references. The it’s always a tragedy when us Americans miss out their definable, fierce apathy with a fresh range of drummer sets her cymbals on fire while performing. on music past our borders), Crash’s latest LP Par- catchy lyrics that bring light out from their notori- They are physically three separate band members, tir brings all of her influences, she claims, from the ous attitude so present in the last few albums. Even however listening to their music is the embodiment places she’s lived and breathed. No one can deny though they are venturing out into more universal of one being. One musical explosion of a genre rethat listening to her voice. At once a bluesy, blood- songwriting, they will always dominate the scene defined. VŌDŪN has carefully laced together rock raw drum-heavy romp, other times a sweet ser- with a presence that no one can mess with. and tribal music, something that has rarely been enade, Edith Crash is a force. You’ve been warned. done before Listen to this: while making an Elvis shrine out of Listen to this: halfway between a winter break up bubblegum. A London band, VŌDŪN is composed of Ogoun, and the spring right around the corner. Marassa, and Oya. They are rooted deeply in the —Lia Braswell Afro-psych movement. Their debut album, Posses—Matthew D’Abate sion, will transport you to another dimension. You will feel their VŌDŪN charm work its magic on you. Listen to this: in the pirogue your uncle let you borrow down in the Honey Island Swamp of Louisiana.


—Gabby Steib




Pussy’s Dead Century Recordss / April 2016

This Stupid Stuff Innsbruck Records January 2016

Possessor Self-released / March 2016

After playing the live circuit for a couple of years, Houston four-piece Giant Kitty are releasing their debut album. This Stupid Stuff is an 11 song collection of straightforward alt-punk. True to the title, some of the songs deal with ephemera like shiny fascinators and Keanu Reeves. The lyrics are to the point and at some times cheesy (“Hipster Boy”), but Miriam Hakim's assertive, Concrete Blondeesque vocals and the crisply recorded distorted guitars and rock beats keep the music bouncing along. Check out the fun video for “Don't Stop That Bus.”

Matador Records, no virgin to the pulse of indie- The Nth Power is brewin’ a hot soup filled with funk, Possessor reminds me everything I loved about the Autolux is bringing back its distinctive, bona fide Portland rock sound at the turn of the millennium. craft in the forthcoming album, Pussy’s Dead, the Just enough angst, leaving out the cheese, and just band’s first studio album in six years. The music is enough metal guitar without the big hair, Plea- complex in that it keeps things simple while staying sure Fix is the sweet spot for real rock ‘n’ roll. This true to the sound that made Autolux so recognizable. is the album you needed to hear 10 years ago, but The rhythmic arrangement weaves in and out of are graced to read about here. In between the Iron heavy builds that lure you into its mystique. There Maiden licks, the attack-drums, and the fire alarm was a moment where Carla Azar’s drums possessed effect on “Siren” (it’s there, right behind the track, my body so that it swayed and moved like a contoroh, it’s there), we can only assume two things: we tionist at a rock show. The beats drive the songs with need this band live, and we need it now. a subtle authority that doesn't necessarily push the Listen to this: if you miss real rock ‘n’ roll, and could song, but allows it to glide through the changes and give a damn about whatever Kanye West’s new re- currents of feeling. It reveals all the progress the trio has made since they emerged in 2004. cord is called.

Listen to this: in one ear while sampling from food trucks on a sunny day. —Chantal-Marie Wright

—Matthew D’Abate

Listen to this: while contemplating your participation in the real world versus the digital. —Lia Braswell




Homeland Call Stomp Self-released / December 2015


Bodacious Play It Again Sam / April 2016

This is the bratty rock you’ve been looking for. Ever heard of the Descendants? Try Hanna Brewer’s energy-pop trio Purple. The group’s drummer/vocalist screams bloody murder on the track “Bodacious,” summoning the in-your-face attitude of the best of early No Doubt, long before Gwen left the boys. I’m the first to rail against mindless pop, but these tracks makes you move. Try the track “Money” for starters. How does Purple take a song from a Homeland Call Stomp is a sumptuous showcase of power-punk tirade to an irie-bass rasta groove in the group's musical range and heritage. There are seconds? The answer will convert you to Purple’s rattling klezmer notes of the old country and howlsecond release, and to many repeat plays soon after ing lyrical rawness of the new country. Cascading, to find out what just happened. syncopated drum rhythms and masterful piano melodies. Wistful ballads and raucous foot stomp- Listen to this: once the new slow-core craze puts ers. The first single “Mind Clear,” for instance, is a you to sleep and you need an injection of “Yes!” multi-layered rock hit that would be at home shar- —Matthew D’Abate ing the stage with Florence + the Machine. Famed Terri Lyne Carrington has been holding The phrase “highly anticipated debut LP” has become the sort of canned hyperbole our eyes are trained to ignore. However in the case of Bulletproof Stockings, an all-woman Chasidic alt rock quartet who play sold out shows to female only audiences, there is not a hint of exaggeration to that casually used line.

Listen to this: while dancing your ass off—in a crowd of women, of course.


Love Yes Carpark Record / February 2016

If you were to judge TEEN’s Love Yes by its album cover, you might think that four of Robert Palmer's raddest chorus ladies broke rank, said “F*ck this,” and formed their own band. In reality, the third album from the Brooklyn foursome is a well-considered and cohesive meditation on the complexities of modern womanhood, expressed in interweaving crystalline harmonies, backed by hypnotic drum beats and nostalgic synths. Take “Tokyo,” an effervescent, synth-pop number with a dazed waltz tempo that already earned a spot on NPR's Songs We Love. A closer inspection of the breathy lyrics reveals the track's darker core: misogyny in relationships, aging, the double-edged sword of sensuality. But hey, may as well dance your heart out while contemplating your own mortality. Listen to this: while playing midnight tag with your lover in the labyrinthine streets of your memory. —Svetlana Chirkova


—Svetlana Chirkova


The Big Fit Chap Stereo / March 2016

The lyrics come off as sarcastic and aware of the inevitable surroundings that you have to put up with for the majority of teenagers who don’t want to be defined by their environment. Their music is relatable to people far past their teenage years because of the universal correlation it has with all the difficulties in life that are not so easy to handle, especially when you are left on your own.


The ladies of Skating Polly are pushing the limits with braces and a vengeance. Their new album, The Big Fit, is already a viewer favorite, partially because of how they evoke memories of school days when it was so difficult to feel connected with the typical bombshells or musical theatre kids that chose to avoid the outcast. They are capable of showing anyone in the midst of struggle what the possibilities are to channel that aggression, sadness, irritability, and the most common—rebellion.

You can always tell when something is genuine, when someone shows how fed up they are in their tone. These girls worked with Kliph Scurlock (Gruff Rhys, Flaming Lips) to make sure their maturity and presence is evident in this album. With that merit, they wrote some songs on here that reveal the sincerity of someone yearning to be heard by those who don’t have much to look up to. The album drops on March 18th and will be touring the US in support of it. In the meantime, check out the music video for their song, “Oddie More” on Youtube. Watch these ladies grow, shred, and prosper. —Lia Braswell

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I'LL NEVER WRITE MY MEMOIRS By Grace Jones Gallery Books / 2015

I'll Never Write My Memoirs brings you from the religious confinement of Grace Jones’ Jamaican childhood, through the daze of hippie Philadelphia years and the explosion of her New York underground scene, to international acclaim. Her memoir is a dizzying tumble through the span of her earthly experiences. It is also a blunt and important account of how a woman who isn’t white or American has dealt with the entertainment industrial complex. Wasting no time editorializing or on post-rationalizations, Grace Jones recounts the details of all that happened to her plain and simple. No pity or special treatment for herself or others—just the facts, ma'am. And a frequent crack of the whip with a sharp phrase like this winner: “Shaving my head lead directly to my first orgasm.” You feel like you’re being grabbed by the hand and dragged from one party, performance, love affair, photo shoot to the next at breakneck speed, while your hostess hisses in your ear: “See me. Take it all in.” It's a good show, I promise.


—Svetlana Chirkova

THERE GOES GRAVITY: A LIFE IN ROCK AND ROLL By Lisa Robinson Riverhead Books / 2014

Imagine it’s the 1960s and rock ‘n’ roll is still relatively new. The U.S. and England are the epicenters of the scene and few publications exist that are devoted to rock music. A young woman who has been obsessed with music from an early age takes the opportunity to write about what she loves, leaving a secure teaching job in order to follow her passion. Lisa Robinson, a pioneer in rock music journalism, wrote for Creem, NME, New York Post, Vanity Fair and more over the years. Besides going on tour with the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin as writing assignments, she was also part of the NYC punk and rock scene. A regular at Max’s Kansas City and CBGB’s, she documents her friendships and interactions with artists such as Lou Reed, David Bowie, Patti Smith, and JohnandYoko (as she calls them). Her straightforward and conversational tone (that I associate with New Yorkers) keeps you turning the page, wondering which of your rock idols she’ll casually be hanging out with next. Although it’s not organized in any apparent way, it seems to represent that era in music very well—evenings and early mornings blending together, drugs, alcohol, and sex freely available, personalities colliding. But what ties it all together is Robinson’s undying love of music. —Rebecca DeRosa



MAKE IT A SIGNATURE YEAR With New Signature Sticks from VIC

Keith Moon THE WHO

Medium shaft with a fast-sloping medium taper for optimal balance.

Ray Luzier KORN

Thick neck with a short taper. Great for heavy back beats with the perfect sound and feel.

Chris Coleman

Short taper with an oval tip. Bold design for a full tone on drums and cymbals.

Jen Ledger SKILLET Unique medium-length taper flanges back out for excellent response and sound clarity.

For full specs, descriptions and more go to Š2016 Vic Firth Company


by Lola Blu

Every drummer has her own preferences about gear and accessories. A recently trending accessory is a line of drumming shoes by Aspirar. Every characteristic of the shoe is extremely important to the drummer, from the fit, the flexibility, the weight, the grip, to (obviously) the aesthetics. Yes, we are allowed to be a little vain. Aspirar passes with flying colors in all of these categories. They fit like a glove— you know, a well-fitting glove. The material is light and breathable, giving the sensation of playing barefoot. But they’re heavy enough to give a little extra power to pack some punch. Aspirar provides cushion for the places a drummer needs, and because they don’t have any laces, they stay right in place the whole time. The sole of the shoe has the perfect amount of grip to help with performing, fully minimizing the potential of any sliding action.


Aesthetically, the funky neon orange and yellow color combo is a showstopper. Coming from a drummer who pretty much always wears Chucks to rock out, I think I may have to chuck them for a new pair of Aspirars!


DREAM CYMBALS by Kelli Rae Tubbs

Dream Cymbals created two special hi-hat cymbal packs that open up the possibilities for drummers of all styles. The two packs—called Diversity and Element—allow each drummer to mix and match from Dream’s cymbal lines, providing six distinct sound combinations in each pack. The Diversity pack includes their Bliss and Contact top cymbals and an Energy bottom. The Element pack includes an Energy top with Bliss and Contact bottom cymbals. Both include a special 3-slot pouch and a spare hi-hat clutch for easy on-the-fly changes during your performance. The Tri-Hat is scheduled for release in April and will retail for $299 per pack.





The Sawtooth is one of more than 20 unusually-designed sticks this Burlington, Ontario, company sells. Headhunters also sells the grooved drumstick design which was created by “Power Tip” more than 40 years ago.

Choose Rebound Balance models to optimize finesse and agility with a rear-weighted feel.

A player can also use the beaded flat surface like a conventional drumstick, opening up the performer’s palette with a variety of sounds from a single product without changing from one type of stick to another. You have to see it to believe it!

Choose Forward Balance models to optimize power and speed with a front-weighted feel.

This unusual drumstick—for lack of a better term—is the result of very creative thinking. The serrated edge design allows the player to recreate the sound of a güiro. The combination serrated and straight edge of one Sawtooth is perfect for creating a cross-stick sound.


by Kelli Rae Tubbs

Select Balance now available in acorn tip.


By Candce Hansen Illustration by James Mitchell ACROSS


8. An act of loving and living in your body however it may be, not letting unrealistic or antiquated standards limit your dreams, ambitions, emotions, plans, or hobbies.

1. Drummers are smart because drumming engages both halves of the brain simultaneously. This coordination can lead to integrative modes of consciousness, which may include greater insight or creativity. This synchronization of both hemispheres is called:

9. This oscillation is the ripple effect that simultaneously creates sound when we strike drums and makes bodies feel waves of rhythm. 10. The process of taking air into and expelling it from the lungs, important for drummers. 11. The smallest parts of organic matter responsible for health. 13. To harbor, reflect, or disseminate information and knowledge with your physical being. 14. Something you should always do before drumming to warm up muscles and protect them from injury.

2. Drumming helps relieve this awful mental and emotional manifestation of existing under adverse or demanding circumstances. 3. When your body has learned something like a beat or a motion and can repeat it even when your mind is not actively engaged. 4. The process of making or becoming sound or healthy again. 5. These natural pain-killing chemicals are created in the brain while drumming. 6. A body system that benefits from drumming that is associated with blood vessels. <3 7. This essential body system is boosted by drumming, a great biological benefit! 12. A by-product discarded by overworked muscles after burning sugar that sometimes triggers a burning sensation.

tion 2. Stress 3. Muscle Memory 4. Healing 5. Endorphins 6. Cardiovascular 7. Immune System 12. Lactic Acid Answers Across: 8. Body Positive 9. Vibration 10. Breathing 11. Cells 13. Embody 14. Stretches Down: 1. Hemispheric Coordina-


Chastity Ashley

Jordan West

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